Honestly, that came out of nowhere.
Around 11 am this morning, Mike Brown was fired from his position as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
I'm writing this within the first half hour of hearing the news and with SportsCenter blaring in the background.
I know the Lakers are 1-4, sitting in last place in the entire Western Conference, and have looked out of sync this entire season, but I didn't expect this.
I don't think anyone expected this.
I mean, come on, it's been just five games with this new group. Give the man some time. What happened to those statements regarding patience?
Unless Phil Jackson comes walking through that door, this just isn't right. Even if Jackson comes walking through that door, this isn't right.
Look, I'm not confusing Mike Brown for some great head coach who is above getting fired when his team underperforms, but I do believe that this team is headed to the NBA Finals regardless of this slow start.
Just answer this, how many games has Mike Brown coached the Big Four on the court all at once? Well, one and a half regular season games (Nash injured just before the half of game two versus the Blazers) and one preseason game (October 21, versus the Kings). That's two and a half games for this group to figure things out. That simply is not enough time to make such a huge decision. I mean, did Brown really blow his evaluations in that two and a half game slate? Sadly, no.
The only explanation for this firing that I can remotely think of is the installation of the Princeton offense. Although I believe that this offense can truly succeed with such high level IQ basketball players, it did one thing that no one believed was right, it took Nash out of the pick and roll game. However, Brown has repeatedly stated that Nash has the freedom to run the pick and roll anytime he wants. Even so, this can't be the reason for the firing, simply because Nash has barely played!
Overall, it looks like the defensive slip of the Lakers is what truly cost Brown his job. The Lakers have been downright awful defensively. Rotations have been late, mental lapses have been abundant, and effort getting back in transition has been noticeably absent. With Dwight Howard manning the middle, this defense should be elite, especially with Pau Gasol providing a twin tower setup, and big wings like Bryant and World Peace wreaking havoc on the wing. But so far, this defense has been weak.
I always thought Brian Shaw was the right hire for the job prior to last season. He would have continued the Triangle principles and he was loved in Los Angeles. However, last season's efforts by Brown earned my respect, and they should have earned Los Angeles' respect. Yes, the Lakers flamed out in the playoffs, but save for a couple key possessions, that team nearly took down the Oklahoma City Thunder in the seminfinal round (it was a lot closer than you may remember).
So, what's next?
First, who's going to be the new coach?
Jackson? Jerry Sloan? Mike D'Antoni? Stan or Jeff Van Gundy?
Whoever it is, they are going to be stepping in front of a moving freight train.
Only Jackson makes sense. His Triangle philosophies would feature Howard in the post with high/low aspects from Gasol and weakside isolations with Bryant. Some think Nash would be relegated to a minor role in the triangle, but he would be a perfect open shooter (a role Fisher perfected) and he would still have the opportunity to run two man games on the weakside. Jackson is clearly the favorite.
Sloan may work out due to his pick and roll mastery and overall old-school respect. Bryant would absolutely love his fire, and Gasol would definitely benefit from someone who would get in his face and light that fire. And don't forget about Nash, he would absolutely thrive with Sloan's pick and roll offense. However, the biggest detraction would be Howard. I just don't believe that Howard would be able to take Sloan's grind, Sloan's fire, Sloan's criticisms. If Howard couldn't handle Stan Van Gundy, there's no way he will get along with a no nonsense coach like Jerry Sloan.
Then there's D'Antoni. D'Antoni clearly doesn't believe in defensive philosophies. He pretty much gears his teams toward outscoring the opponent rather than coming up with stops. A team of this caliber could thrive with that mindset, but I'm a firm believer in "defense wins championships." Whatever the case, he was one of Bryant's favorite players while Bryant grew up in Italy, and in turn Bryant has always respected those "7 Seconds or Less" Suns teams. And obviously, Nash loves D'Antoni. However, the way this team is constituted, I don't believe that an up and down game is the way to go with the fourth oldest roster in the entire NBA.
Either Van Gundy would be great, but that's not going to happen with Howard on the roster, plain and simple.
Next question, what's going to happen to the offense?
It seems like the Princeton is definitely going to be scrapped. Assistant coach Eddie Jordan is responsible for it, and he is still on the staff, but I doubt it will be kept. Until a new coach is signed, there will be no indication of an offense.
As for the defense, any coach can look good if they get this team to play hard and smart. Funnel to the baseline and let Howard and Gasol take care of business, simple as that. Honestly, it's not complicated. Howard is great defensive player, and he can pretty much erase any mistake made on the perimeter.
Even more pressing, who's responsible for this decision?
Many will claim that Bryant had his hand in this, but I doubt it. Bryant has been a staunch supporter of Brown since his hire. We all saw the "death stare," but believe me, that look has been glared at Jackson, Frank Hamblen, Rudy Tomjanovich, Kurt Rambis, and Del Harris. That heat of the moment look has been directed toward every coach Bryant has been around. I don't think that Bryant truly had a hand in this. I believe that management made this decision. Jerry and Jim Buss didn't like what they saw, so they pulled the trigger. It's rash. It's cold. It's calculated. It also serves as a message, that this team needs to win now. This team is built for now, and after five games of failure, management is sending a message screaming "WIN NOW!" Credit them for having the guts to make such a decision, but also know, it sure was early.
Coach Brown, it was short lived, it was full of ups and downs, and it was memorable. So long. I'm not really sad to see you go, but I do believe that you deserved this season. After a lockout, truncated, training camp-less season last year, you deserved a full season to implement your philosophies. You deserved to battle on in the same manner that Erik Spoelstra did when the Heat got LeBron James and started 9-8. If you remember, Spoelstra was on the hot seat, and everyone expected Pat Riley to take over. Well, Spoelstra stuck with it, got his team to the Finals, and eventually coached his team to a championship victory the following year. That could have been Brown's narrative, but now we'll never know.
In my lifetime, I've never seen the Lakers panic. This is surely as surprising a thing as I've ever seen from this organization. It's unsettling, it's too soon. Patience could have gone a long way this season, but I guess management felt differently.
In the end, a championship is all that matters. If this team goes on to dethrone the Heat, this move will be regarded as genius. If the Lakers come up short, this move will be the cop out. It's win big or go home.
Good luck Kobe, Dwight, Pau, and Steve, it's all on you now.
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