By Dennis J. Freeman
El Segundo, CA-The Los Angeles Lakers introduced new coach Mike Brown to the local and national media at their practice and training facility for the first time. As he did with Lakers brass, Brown impressed. Brown, who guided LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and playoff appearances in each of his five years as head coach, didn’t seem a bit overwhelmed by the moment like many media pundits expected him to be.
With the departure of Phil Jackson, the Lakers didn’t waste time to find the right coaching fit for the team. Lakers management staff believe they have that fit by hiring the 41-year-old, defensive-minded Brown to a reported multi-year contract deal. With the league making a shift to go young in recent coaching hires, Brown gives the Lakers both youth and a winning background.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Mike Brown to the Lakers,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “What Mike brings to the table is unique in that he’s a proven winner in this league and yet also a rising star in his profession. After an extensive and thorough search to find the right person to help carry on our championship legacy, we feel that Mike is poised and ready to do so.”
Brown, who compiled a 272-138 regular season record and a 42-29 postseason mark with the Cavaliers, blew the Lakers away with the way he came prepared for his job interview, said team owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
“I liked his X’s and O’s and his vision for our future,” Buss said shortly after team’s press conference for Brown. “I don’t think people understand that our job is to remain on top forever. He liked that philosophy. When we started the process, I did not think he would be the man. When he started talking to us and said how he would handle this team…he was very prepared. He had page after page of each individual player on the roster. He knew that roster from top to bottom. He was really prepared, very impressive.”
Brown paid his coaching dues as associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers and assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. He got his start in the NBA working for the Denver Nuggets as a video coordinator, where he later worked as a scout for the team. He then spent several years with the Washington Wizards before his coaching career really took off.
After coaching one megastar and guiding his team into the postseason five straight years, the Lakers should see a bright future with Brown directing Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum on the floor. For his part, Brown said he isn’t here to try to fill Jackson’s shoes. He’s here because he has a philosophy that he is confident in will help the Lakers get back to being on top of the NBA.
That philosophy starts on the defensive end, he said.
“You got to play defense,” Brown said. “The last 15 NBA champions finished in the top 12 or better defensively. That’s something we’ll preach from day one…it’s that end of the floor. We don’t want anything to happen in that paint. The second thing is we’re not giving up middle drives. And the third thing is you give full-court effort. Those three things my players will hear often.”