Mike Brown offers a solid first impression but can he sell his ideas?
What I liked about Mike Brown's introductory press conference
1. He brought the right enthusiasm. It's a dicey balance, but Brown managed to provide the positive energy needed in tackling on this tough assignment as becoming the next Lakers' coach. He continuously smiled, made every effort to get to know reporters and enthusiastically answered every question. I'll have more on what this means, but with all the skepticism surrounding his hire, it was a good sign to see he had the right perspective in understanding the scrutiny, while making it clear he was going to work as hard as he can to overcome any transition period following the Phil Jackson era.
"I have great respect for Phil Jackson and all of his accomplishments," Brown said. "I'm not sure what size shoes he wears, but I'm not here to fill his shoes. I'm here to help this team and this organization carve our own path to success.
2. Brown specifically defined what philosophies he wants on offense and defense. His three philosophies he wants the Lakers to hone in on defense entails what he calls "shrinking the floor," not allowing drives into the middle of the lane and always contesting shots. His three philosophies on offense entailed what he called "attacking the clock" "paint touches" and "spacing. Attacking the clock involves getting the ball to the frontcourt in the first three to four seconds on the shot clock so that there's more time to actually run the offense. The paint touches involves having ball reversal and making sure they play inside-out. And having the proper spacing entails making sure everyone's balanced on the floor.
Brown also plans to use his offensive system when he was an assistant with San Antonio's championship team in 2003 that involved getting Tim Duncan and David Robinson looks in the post instead of on the block. That would give the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum better looks inside and minimize double teams from coming up at the block.
"We're not going to run the triangle offense," Brown said. "But we will have bits and pieces of it incorporated in it. It'll be basedo n the skillset and comfort level of our players. That will determine how much of it will be part of our offense."
3. Brown sent a right message in holding players accountable while also giving the team ownership in the changes he wants to make. I'll have more below on whether he'll actually be able to pull this off. But for now, Brown offered in theory the perfect outline on how he's going to strike the balance between taking control of the team, while also respecting everyone's space because of their championship experience in talent level.
On accountability: "If there's a missed assignment during a game, this way I'm probably different from Phil, especially early on, I may take a timeout. People may say, what is he wasting his timeout for? Well, I need to teach. I'm a new coach, new team, new system, so I may burn a timeout just to teach. Not only that, if somebody blows an assignment or something like that, I'm not trying to criticize them or make them look bad, but it will be up on the film."
"They'll see it the next day. If I have to sit a guy down, I'll sit a guy down. If I have to call the guy in my office, I'll do that. I feel like I'm a fair guy, a fair coach, a fair person and my door will always be open. I think the best way to get people to buy in is to be honest with them. Sometimes they may not like what you're saying, but if they're good people, which this team has, at the end of the day, they'll appreciate me looking them in the eye and tell them what I think and why I think it. Remember, whenever I do something, it will always be for the betterment of the team, not for any specific individual, nor for myself."
On allowing the team to take ownership: "Anytime you're in a position of authority and you're dealing with talented individuals, they will have their own view and opinion on things. I hope that every once in a while, Matt Barnes, Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol questions me. I welcome that. They're not going to like everything that comes out of my mouth 100%. When they do question me, there will be a time and place for it. As a coach, my job is to be the filter. At the end of the day, it stops with me. I have to make the decision on what's best for the team. I don't have a problem if anybody is upset or wants to question me or anything like that. Hey come on, my door is open. We can do it in frnt of the team. We're family here. I'll listen. But then like I said, I'm going to make the final decision on what's best for the team."
What I didn't like about Brown's press conference
1. Matt Barnes was the only player to show up to the press conference. Barnes and team officials stressed that it's the offseason and that most players are on vacation, including Andrew Bynum (England), Pau Gasol (Spain), Kobe Bryant (somewhere in Europe), Derek Fisher (undisclosed). Steve Blake told me last week he's spending most of his offseason in Portland, Devin Ebanks is in New York, Derrick Caracter is in Florida and I learned Shannon Brown was out of town within the last week. But I find it hard to believe that only one player could make the press conference. Heck, Ron Artest has spent the past two Sundays playing sandball. I don't expect the entire team to show up and it's easy to overstate the underlying message behind this. But I don't buy the notion that it's difficult for at least some of them to alter vacation plans.
"I was energized just coming to this press conference," Barnes said. "Even though we're a long way out, we got this feeling back it's time to go to work. Granted, we have a long time to go. But I have no question and no doubt everyone will come to training camp ready to roll."
2. Brown still hasn't convinced me he'll truly be able to sell his ideas. The Lakers wish they weren't under this circumstances, but Brown is going to have an easier time getting everyone to buy into his philosophy because of how they ended the season with a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks. As Brown said, "Hopefully when we start training camp, I have 15 angry men I have to work with."
But what happens the moment the Lakers hit a rough patch, Bryant decides to break out of the offense or there's some sort of on-court distraction? Brown rightfully recognized that coaching, particularly with the Lakers, go beyond the X's and O's. But with Brown's constant dodging on what really transpired behind the scenes between him and LeBron James and his self-admission that he didn't see Bryant in person until Tuesday morning, I'm very skeptical on how he's going to apply his two philosophies with holding players accountable and giving the team ownership. Brown has since talked with Fisher, Gasol and Artest since getting hired and the revelation that he refused to allow management to keep a copy of his basketball DVD's following the interview provides an interesting nugget illustrating his willingness to stand up for himself.
But Brown's most important relationship in making his mark with the Lakers successful won't be with management. It will be with his players, most notably Bryant. It'll be interesting on how this all plays out, but by the sound of it, it seems like Brown simply deferring to Bryant.
"This is still his team. Kobe is Kobe," Brown said. "He has five titles. He's one of the greatest ever. His role will not change. We'll make sure he'll have the ball in the sweet spots he likes to have them in. A lot of this stuff is what we went over or I went over with Kobe. He has a great understanding of my vision and he's on board."
There's going to be more issues than simply making sure Bryant gets shots in his sweet spots. How will he handle the inevitable clash between Bynum wanting a larger offensive role and Bryant saying he needs to "fall in line?" How will he strike a balance between giving Bryant the space on offense, but holding him accountable when he's not utilizing his talent around him?
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Photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown takes a break between interviews during his introductory news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011.
Photo: Mike Brown speaks with reporters after being introduced as the Lakers' new coach at a news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2011)