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Mike Brown's stepping stones to the coaching ranks

January 2, 2012 | 10:56 am

Eager to join the NBA coaching ranks, Mike Brown soon found out that getting his foot in the door involved more than just coaching basketball.

The Lakers' head coach had impressed the Denver Nuggets enough as an unpaid intern in 1992 to land a video coordinator position after graduating from the University of San Diego. But the position proved hardly glamorous for reasons beyond having to edit video deck-to-deck instead of on a computer.

"I landscaped our assistant GM's yard," Brown said, referring to Todd Eley. "I'll never forget, I had a Nissan 4x2 pickup truck. It was maroon. It was one thing to help him landscape his yard, but it was another thing finding out that 4x2 was going to be the stone-hauler.

"I did it all, trust me."

Brown told that story before the Lakers began a set of back-to-backs against the Nuggets. His recollection of his first NBA stint 19 years later revealed more of his fondness for hard work, however, than lamenting how he paid his dues.  

So Brown moved from that unpaid internship to the video coordinating spot and then a scouting position with Denver for five seasons before joining former Nuggets General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff as one of his assistant coaches with the Washington Wizards. That, in turn, resulted in assistant coaching stints with the San Antonio Spurs (2000-03), Indiana Pacers (2003-05) and then head coaching jobs with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-10) and now the Lakers. 

Even before his first head coaching job, Brown said he never felt as if he was working for scraps. 

"[Bickerstaff] offered me 15 grand," Brown said. 'In my head, I was like, 'Man you sucker. I got you fooled. All you had to do was offer me a couple pair of sneakers and Denver Nuggets sweatsuit.' If I had that Denver Nuggets sweatshirt and sneakers, I would've been golden, but he offered to pay me 15 grand and I thought I was rich."

This summer, Brown signed a deal to coach the Lakers  for about $4.5 million a season over four years for a total of about $18 million. So it appears he has left his stone-hauling days behind. 

"I can afford to pay for somebody now," Brown said.


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— Mark Medina

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