How do you describe the feeling of being totally shocked and yet not shocked at all? That was my immediate reaction to USA Today’s breaking news that the Lakers have fired head coach Mike Brown today after he led the team to a miserable 1-4 start to this season.
Did most of us see this coming? Sure, we did. Did anyone besides the most reactionary, over-entitled Lakers fan really believe team management would pull the plug on him just five discombobulated games into this latest grand experiment in superstar stacking? I should hope not. Because this is more than a little ridiculous.
Just over 24 hours ago, Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss gave Brown the always-dreaded vote of confidence, saying “I have no problems with Mike Brown at all. He just works too hard and he’s too knowledgeable for this to be happening.” Either that was a bold-faced lie by Buss — a definite possibility to be sure — or somebody else with influence inside the Lakers organization had a vastly different view of Brown’s coaching acumen.
Pretty much everyone is going to presume that Kobe Bryant is behind this, and with good reason. Kobe appeared to give Brown a “death stare” in the closing seconds of the Lakers’ loss to the Jazz on Wednesday, and there’s also the fact that we’re talking about the most cold-blooded MFer in the NBA. Whether or not Kobe is behind this (and come on… of course he is), Brown was doomed from the start when he took this job in June 2011, because he was following in the footsteps of Phil Jackson, who brought the Lakers five championships and never had a losing record in 11 seasons at the helm. How do you follow a living legend like that and survive without going to at least the Conference Finals every season?
After the Lakers lost in five games to the Thunder in the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals and then stumbled out of the gate this season, the answer is: You don’t. I maintain that while Mike Brown is clearly not a great coach, he’s also not a complete disaster. Before Lakers fans rally behind Mike D’Antoni as the seemingly obvious “Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction” fixer of this mess, let us not forget how poorly his stint with the Knicks went. Also, he just had knee surgery two weeks ago so he might not even be a feasible immediate replacement.
One interesting option as a coach who is available and could probably command Kobe’s respect is Jerry Sloan. The question there is how Dwight Howard would respond to Sloan yelling at him all the time. Still, he’s an intriguing possibility and you have to assume he would be given significantly more time than Brown was granted to figure out how to get the most out of the considerable talent on this team.
What about Phil Jackson himself? It’s widely believed that his body can’t withstand a full season of travel at his age, but I know better than to write him off completely. The opportunity to swoop in and remind everyone of his genius at managing the egos of superstars like Howard and Bryant has to be enticing to him. We all know that having to back a Brinks truck up to Phil Jackson’s mansion to get him to return will not be an obstacle for the Lakers.
But that’s all speculation at this point, isn’t it? This post is meant to be a eulogy for the NBA coaching career of Mike Brown, who probably won’t be offered another head coaching job after such a spectacular flame-out. Alas, his crime was not having the accomplishments and the aura of the most-renowned coach in the history of the NBA. His sentence was a lethal bite to the jugular from The Black Mamba.