Coaching Candidate Profile: Mike Brown
Candidate: Mike Brown
Coaching background: Brown led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances through his five seasons where he compiled a 272-138 record and won NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2009. Despite leading the Cavaliers to a league-best 66-16 regular season record in the 2008-2009 season, Cleveland fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. Brown followed up with a league-best 61-21 season, but that only translated into more playoff turmoil where Cleveland fell to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Brown was then fired after the season before becoming an ESPN NBA analyst. He also held assistant coach stints with the Washington Wizards (1997-99), San Antonio Spurs (2000-2003) and Indiana Pacers (2003-2005).
Pros: A number of reports, including ones from The Times' Broderick Turner, ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin and ESPN.com's Marc Stein as well as Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski indicate that Brown is in a strong position to be named the Lakers next head coach, possibly as early as Wednesday. Turner mentioned that Brown became a front-runner because Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel. was impressed with Brown's "defensive-minded style." Although Lakers guard Kobe Bryant strongly supported Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw for the head coaching job, Bryant said during his exit interview, "If you’re building a championship team, the DNA always has to start on the defensive end of the floor. Always. I’m a firm believer in that. I don’t believe in building a championship team on offense. It has to be built on defense and rebounding. Period."
Brown certainly fits that bill, with his Cavalier teams among the best defensive units in the league and Lakers forward Ron Artest winning the 2003-04 defensive player of the year award under Brown's defensive system in Indiana. Considering the Lakers battled defensive inconsistency during the 2011 playoffs, they could use the help. Their 17-1 start after the All-Star break largely pointed to the Lakers' new defensive scheme that stressed funneling drivers into the lane so the team's frontline could close in at them on the basket. But once the playoffs hit, the Lakers fell behind on rotations as they struggled defending New Orleans and Dallas. Brown would surely fix that, showing a strong ability in getting the best out of a team that lacked much talent outside of LeBron James and continuing to convince Andrew Bynum to thrive in a defensive role. As Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry said about Brown after Cleveland parted with him, "Mike established a work ethic, defensive identity and culture of winning that was not here previously," Ferry said.
Cons: As accomplished as Brown proved to be on the defensive end, his offensive sets with Cleveland lacked much of an identity. Considering the Lakers frequently deviated from the triangle offense last season and appeared entirely disorganized, this weakness will only expose the Lakers even more. They certainly have the talent to be an offensively efficient team with Bryant's skillset as well as the team's frontline presence with Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. But with the Lakers' poor outside shooting, Bryant's occasional trigger-happy tendencies and the team's inconsistency in properly using its size advantage, lacking a strong offensive identity won't allow the Lakers to fully take advantage of their offensive assets.
This problem could prove even worse if Brown fails to earn respect from the Lakers' veterans, specifically Bryant. Sure, Brown had convinced LeBron James to thrive defensively, but he also game James free reign to play 1 on 5 on offense. After years of that coddling, Brown was ultimately let go in hopes that would help convince James to stay with Cleveland during free agency last off-season. This might not be a factor right away, but the moment adversity hits, it'll be a gamble to assume Brown could command the same respect someone such as Brian Shaw or Rick Adelman would receive from the Lakers.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Should former Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown get the coaching job, he'll improve the Lakers' defense. But will his failed offensive philosophies in the past haunt the Lakers? Credit: AP Photo/Tony Dejak