Just five games into the Lakers’ 2012-2013 campaign, head coach Mike Brown has been fired after an embarrassing 1-4 start.
“I have great respect for the Buss family and the Lakers’ storied tradition and I thank them for the opportunity they afforded me,” Brown said in a statement. “I have a deep appreciation for the coaches and players that I worked with this past year and I wish the organization nothing but success as they move forward.”
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak added, “Today we relieved Mike Brown of his head coaching duties with the Los Angeles Lakers. Mike is a good man. Very hard working, maybe one of the hardest-working coaches that I’ve ever been around. The bottom line is that the team is not winning at the pace that we expected this team to win and we didn’t see improvement. We wish Mike well and we’re sorry it ended this way. So, we’ve decided to move in another direction and make a change.”
Kobe Bryant released his own statement on his Facebook page, saying “Tough day. I’ve seen coaches as well as friends come and go. No matter how many years I’ve been playing, it’s still hard to deal with. I had a good relationship with Mike and I will continue to have one. I wish him and his family nothing but the best. I spoke with him today and thanked him for all of his hard work and sacrifice. As a team, we must focus our energy on tonight’s game. We must block out the weight of today’s news and simply do our jobs to the best of our ability. I’m not sure what direction we are heading in next. All I can do is focus on the here and now.”
Now, comes the fun part. Was this firing justified? Was it done at just the right time, too early or far too late? Well for starters, it’s hard to argue against the proposition that Mike Brown is not a good coach. His defensive schemes are terrific, however he has little knowledge on the offensive end, and simply does not have the credentials or experience to demand the respect and attention of multiple superstars on one basketball team. But five games into the NBA season with a new system in play and a completely new team? Seems a bit far fetched.
A source did tell Yahoo! Sports that “This (firing) was about the offense, more than anything else.” This confounds me. The offense has hardly been the problem with this team, which comes as a shock considering this cast of stars had to learn and buy in to a system they’ve never played in, and do it under a huge spotlight. The Lakers are 13th in the league in points per contest, and 7th in offensive rating. This being done with an atrocious bench, one of their top three players in Steve Nash only having played one game, and their force down low Dwight Howard still being bothered by his back problems dating back to late last season.
So having said all of this, is there any way to justify the firing of Brown this early in the season? Not in any ethical way. Could it be debatable that Brown was never a good fit for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, and the hiring of this coach in itself was a mistake? Sure. But morale standards pushed aside (there really is no room for that in sports), it seems that this move was a precautionary change for when the Lakers would likely eventually end up imploding because of the uncomfortable relationship between Coach Brown and his handful of NBA stars. And that in itself is, well, smart.
Now who will take over? The Lakers had Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff run the team as an interim head coach for their matchup against Golden State, but there is no chance he will end up becoming the full-time head coach. As of reports right now, two former NBA head coaches are “neck and neck” in the race to be the Lakers’ head coach according to a source. Those two are 11-time NBA champion as a coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson, and former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni.
Mike D’Antoni had this to say about the potential of him taking over Mike Brown’s position: “if they offer it. I’d love it. It’d be a perfect fit.”
Hold your horses Mike. Yes you get Steve Nash back, who helped you and the Phoenix Suns snag multiple 60-win seasons. But this team is far from the perfect fit for you. You think a team with four starters that are 30 years of age plus are going to want to run up and down the court like track runners all night? You think the Lakers already disastrous defense will get any better with your arrival? How about your inability to handle New York’s media, it’s not a whole lot easier in the City of Angels.
It’s a clear cut no-brainer that Phil Jackson would be the Lakers best bet at this point. He’s won there, five times to be exact, Dwight Howard would be happy with him according to SheridanHoops.com, and his ability to work egos into a team will ultimately benefit the Lakers gigantically. Or we could see a Stan Van Gundy come take the job, reunite with Dwight Howard, and the world as we know it could cease to exist.