Lakers Q&A: Chuck Person says Lakers will be held more accountable in executing similar defensive scheme
This is the first post in an occasional series of Q&As with a member of Mike Brown's coaching staff. Below is an email exchange with Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, facilitated through the Lakers' media relations staff.
During your interview with Coach Brown, what points did you emphasize to him and what questions did he want to know from you?
"The hiring was pretty much immediate because of the relationship I had with Mike working with him in Indiana under Rick Carlisle. He asked me if I wanted to be here and I told him yes because I like the Lakers organization, what this team’s about and what type of players we have moving forward to try to win a championship again in the future."
What was your overall approach to the interview in terms of selling yourself?
"It wasn’t a matter of me selling myself because our philosophies are similar both offensively and defensively. I know what Mike Brown’s approach is to game planning and implementing his system because of his days in San Antonio. Then we worked together in Indiana, so I am familiar with his approach and I can continue to carry those things on while working for him."
What responsibilities has Brown assigned to you? This can range from any opponents he’s put you in charge of scouting or certain team responsibilities. What’s your overall philosophy on those areas you’re going to oversee?
"It will be different from what Phil [Jackson] had us do. Phil gave us each certain teams to scout, where Mike has us each learn the entire league. Our scouting responsibilities will be on a game-by-game basis, we’ll just rotate it that way. In terms of personal assignments, we are just going to coach the team. All coaches are required to know both sides of the ball; obviously we have our different strengths we bring to the table. My strength is on the defensive side of the ball. The system we are going to implement will be similar to last season because it’s a system I learned from Mike Brown. So there won’t be much change in the defensive philosophy."
"Mike is very detail oriented, he’s a hard worker and his energy levels are fantastic. The guy comes in every day with energy enough to power an atomic weapon. But that’s good because I think our players need that influx of new energy to reignite the championship quality passion that they’ve shown in the past."
With playing a large role in fixing the Lakers’ defensive scheme last year, what is your overall evaluation on how the team played on that end? What areas did they do well in and what parts need improvement?
"I think we improved quite a bit defensively. Our numbers suggest that our team was very good defensively. I think the area where we didn’t do very well was defensive rebounding. I was quite surprised that we weren’t able to come up with more rebounds when opponents missed. I think we forced the most misses in the league but we didn’t finish off the plays with rebounds. I think if we could improve in that area, then we can dominate this league defensively."
Several players in their exit interviews with the media indicated that there was a learning curve in understanding and executing the scheme, while also acknowledging that the new defense proved to be a large part in the team’s 17-1 record after the All-Star break. What’s your view on what led to such inconsistency?
"The one thing you have to do with this defense is you have to practice every day, be able to learn the terminology, give multiple efforts on every play, and buy into the system, which I feel the players did. Because of injuries and other things that took place, we weren’t able to practice as much going forward with that defense and I think that’s what the lack of consistency can be attributed to. But for the most part I think we executed things very well and I look forward to continuing this system under Mike Brown. A few things will change, because Mike Brown’s system mirrors the system I tried implementing with this team, so I don’t think the learning curve going forward will be too extensive."
Given how the team played defense last season and the fact there is a coaching change, what scheme do you envision the team having on defense? What elements will be similar to last season and what elements will be different?
"I think the basic scheme will be the same. We’ll keep the ball out of the middle of the floor, force the ball baseline without getting beat, come over from the weak side to do what we call “trap the box,” and make sure the ball stays out of the paint. We are going to shrink the floor and invite opponents to shoot with a contested hand on every shot, so that won’t change from last year. What will change is we will have the players be held more accountable for executing our defensive philosophy and defensive game plans from game-to-game. Mike won’t have any leniency when it comes to that end of the floor. He’ll allow them to make some mistakes offensively, but there won’t be much room defensively for guys to go off on their own and do things outside of the defensive system that we implement."
What reasons would you attribute to shooting 35.2% from three-point range last season? What areas (tactical, mechanical, etc.) does the team need to improve on to ensure stronger outside shooting?
"I’m a firm believer, and so is Mike, that you work on the shots that you take within the offensive system that you implement. I think it was just a matter of guys continuing to get better working from the areas they are going to get their shots from. We had a lot of opportunities to make shots last year, but we missed a lot of open looks. Hopefully that won’t continue next year. Hopefully guys will come in this year more prepared to make open shots than they did last year."
What emotions did you face knowing that you wouldn’t be working with the same coaching staff of Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons?
"Brian Shaw, who is a good friend of mine, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons brought tons of experience to our team, and I will miss coaching with them dearly. Phil gave me an opportunity to impact this team from the very start when he hired me two years ago. It’s going to be bittersweet knowing that this history of Lakers basketball will no longer be there with those guys leading the way. And the history that these guys left behind will be hard to match. So we have our work cut out for us to try to simulate what Phil Jackson did here for the Lakers over his last 11 years."
What did you learn the most on Phil’s coaching staff?
"One thing is that you have to be prepared and ready to coach the players. The players have a lot of questions so if you do your homework you have to provide an answer. There are only so many answers you can give in basketball, but for the answer that you give, you have to be able to sell it and players have to be able to buy it. So no matter how good of a system you run or how good of a coach you think you are, if the players aren’t buying the message you are destined to fail. Phil is a master at selling the message and got players to buy in to what we wanted to do offensively and defensively. That’s why you see Phil Jackson’s teams so successful from year to year."
Being the lone holdover from the previous coaching staff, in what areas do you think you can help the most during the transition process?
"During the transition, I’ll have a better understanding of what the tendencies of our players are and that can allow Mike and the rest of the staff to transition that much easier. But at the same time, Mike has to learn the players on his own, which he will do. But also for the rest of the coaching staff, relationships is what it’s all about and forming your own opinion and thoughts about what players we have on our team is essential to be the best coaching staff that we can possibly be."
When the Lakers announced your hiring, you were quoted in their statement indicating you “look forward to assisting Coach Brown in helping our players regain that form and realize their potential” that they had during the 2010 championship run. What’s your solution and approach in ensuring players do that?
"The first and most important thing is that we don’t have any laurels to rest on now; we are no longer the champions. Before, we were a three-time finals team and back-to-back champions. So we were the hunted. But now we have to be predators and go out and kill our own food if we want to eat, so to speak. So I think our players will now be ready to do that since last season ended in disappointment. The offseason is long and they have a lot of time to think about what went wrong, so I think they will come back refreshed, re-energized and ready to reclaim what is theirs."
Numerous reports including our own outlet indicated that you interviewed for the Golden State Warriors head coaching position this past offseason. What can you say you learned from the experience?
"The good thing is that when you are mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate and you are on a short list of coaches that they interview, it speaks to the systems that you’ve been involved in as an assistant. I’ve worked for some great coaches and played for some great coaches; obviously, Phil Jackson being the best of them all. Also, the fact that I worked for Rick Carlisle, coaching his defense with Indiana, who has now won a championship in Dallas also helped. So having championship experience really spearheaded this opportunity to be considered for the Warriors head coaching position. And the things that I have learned from this experience is that you have to continue to work hard each day to get better, work hard at communicating to players and work hard at being able to implement and be exact with what you want to do with your team. And that comes from preparation."
What type of feedback did you receive?
"Well, quite a bit. I knew that I had an opportunity to get the Warriors job. I think Mark Jackson, who they selected, was a very good hire for them because he’s energetic, young and has fresh ideas about the Warriors going forward. But at the same time I’m very respectful of Larry Riley, Bob Myers and obviously Jerry West, who kept me informed of what was going on throughout the process. I know that it came down to a couple of guys including myself, so the feedback was very positive. Going forward, I think I have learned a lot in terms of how to interview and land a job if the opportunity presents itself again."
Is there anything you learned from your interview process with Golden State specifically that helped provide any indication on what would give you the best chance to land a head coaching job the next time another opportunity arises?
"I don’t think I would do anything differently. I went in very prepared and gave them my philosophy on what my system would be both offensively and defensively. The only thing that a guy in my position can ask for is an opportunity to be able to lead a team. When you learn from the best, when you’ve played for the best and you’ve been involved with a great organization to see how things are done professionally, other teams know it and value it. So it’s just a matter of if you fit with what they want to do to go forward. As we continue to have success here with the Lakers, I think the opportunity will eventually present itself."
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Top photo: Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person will work under Mike Brown overseeing the Lakers' defense. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
Second photo: Lakers Coach Mike Brown also worked with Person at Indiana. Credit: Associated Press
Third photo: Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, right, often credited Brian Shaw with taking him under his wing. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
Bottom photo: Chuck Person, left, works out with Andrew Bynum before a Lakers game in April. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times