Starting next season, whenever next season starts, the Los Angeles Lakers will be Mike Brown's team. Yes, that Mike Brown. The guy whose offensive sets became the punchline of the NBA blogosphere's comedic sets. The guy whose merits include two straight 60 win seasons with a team that didn't have much talent outside of one supreme superstar ... but also included two early exits in the playoffs in those two seasons. That's the Mike Brown the Los Angeles Lakers chose to lead an aging team built to fit a certain style of basketball that will now likely be impossible for them to play. It's an interesting choice, a surprising choice. And it may even be a good choice.
Since it became apparent that the Lakers were locked in to Brown as a coach, with Brown similarly locked in to the Lakers as an employer, many smart people have come out with opinions that it could be a successful partnership. The caveat, of course, is whether Mike Brown can bring Kobe Bryant on board. After all, it's become readily apparent that Kobe never even had a chance to voice an opinion on the matter, and it is already well known that Bryant wanted former assistant coach Brian Shaw to get the job, and shared a similar respect for Rick Adelman as well. Mike Brown? Kobe said he was "confused" by the hire, and that is where we stand.
Still, many smart people think this can work. So many smart people, in fact, that I can't help but wonder if they are simply providing market correction for the legions of less informed fans who are so adamantly against the idea. So let me be one of the few members of the club known as the NBA blogosphere who goes the other way. Short and sweet, I don't like this hire, and my reasons have little to do with Mike Brown's merits as a coach.
The reasons why I don't like Mike Brown's hire as the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers have everything to do with the reasons why he was hired in the first place.
Reason #1: Mike Brown is young and energetic, and we (the Lakers) like to hire our coaches for a long time
That's a great line. and it has just enough truth to it that most folks are willing to let it slide without calling bullshit. Well, let me be the first.
It's true, the Lakers have had quite a few coaches last a long time in the position, probably more so than most other franchises. You know what all those coaches have had in common? Success ... long-term, uninterrupted success. I have no doubt that the Mike Brown era might get off to a great start. At the very least, he should enjoy the type of success that leads to a man not losing his job as a coach. But after that? When Kobe either retires or truly enters the period of his career which will be known as "Last Legs" When there remain two years on Ron Artest's contract? When Lamar Odom gets old? Pau Gasol? The one certain truth of this team is that they are on a collision course for rebuilding. This season gave us a first glimpse of what it will look like, but the hope is that, with the motivation of this year's lost, a season or two more can be wrangled out of the roster before it collapses. After that, barring some miracle trades in which the old dogs are flipped for similarly skilled and considerably younger pieces, this team is going to struggle.
And the next head coach is virtually guaranteed not to survive it. That's just how the game is played. If your name ain't Jerry Sloan, the chances that one man can survive a rebuilding period from beginning to end are very, very small. That's why even coaches as illustrious as Rick Adelman have three or four teams on their dossier. And the Lakers are no exception. Sure, Pat Riley oversaw some great success in Showtime. After that, the Lakers went through two coaches in four seasons before Del Harris was given a decent chance to prove himself at the start of the Shaq/Kobe years. Or how about this bit of evidence ... no Lakers coach which has led the team in a year in which the team missed the playoffs was the coach the next time the Lakers did play in the postseason.
This team is a win now team, and they need a win now coach. Mike Brown may or may not be that guy, it remains to be seen. But he isn't being sold that way, and that is where I question the logic of his hire.
Reason #2: Mike Brown is a great defensive coach, and that's where we need the most help
Mike Brown is a great defensive coach, and that's the side of the ball the Lakers did struggle with the most last season. But when you are ditching an offensive system, in the Triangle offense, that is such a huge part of not just the style and strategy of the team, but its very makeup and roster, what the hell does it matter that the Lakers were a strong offensive team last season? Usually, when you make the case that a new employee will improve on your weaknesses, said employee doesn't involve making drastic changes to the things you are considering strengths.
And it's not as if the Lakers intend to keep someone on board who can still run the Triangle. They've made it pretty clear that they intend to move away from it (and besides, it will be a small wonder if anybody associated with last year's coaching staff would even want to continue with the team). Now, maybe some of these big name assistant coaches that are being tossed through the rumor mill will be brought on board, and the Lakers will end up in good hands on both sides of the ball. It's a decent possibility, which is promoted by Mike Brown's willingness to delegate on the side of the ball in which he knows he's not the best mind. But don't try to sell us "Mike Brown will improve our defense, and that's what we weren't so good at" when the offense will change more than the defense will because of his hire.
Reason #3: Mike Brown is willing to coach at the price we're willing to pay
It's none of my business how much the Lakers want to pay their head coach. If they want to pay $10 million a year to get the best in the business, cool. If they want to pay $4 million a year to get a good coach, sure. If they want to pay $100K to get me to coach the team, I'm all in. But the Lakers have the most expensive roster in the league, by a wide margin. And they are locked into most of that expensive roster for years to come. This is not a roster that you bargain shop a coach for. To steal a great line from one of our commenters, this is like putting BBQ sauce on a lobster.
Mike Brown is the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers now, for better or worse. He's our coach, and we will give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope with all our Lakers-loving hearts that his choice will end up looking inspired. We will demand that Kobe Bryant buy in to whatever Mike Brown says, we will hope the Lakers splurge for at least one high-minded offensive coach in order to supplement Brown's strong ability as a defensive guru and motivator. We will support him until it becomes clear, one way or the other, whether he was the right man for the job.
But if the way the Lakers have sold his qualities to us so far are any indication, we're off to a rocky start.