Mike Brown doesn't always command total respect from his players.
But is Mike Brown the right guy for the job of head coaching the league's preeminent franchise? His biggest test will come this season with a team that, on paper, is as strong as any in the game. In Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, Brown has the luxury of coaching four of the game's all-time greats and certain Hall of Famers.
In other words, it's put up or shut up time for Mike Brown.
Lakers fans do not coddle their coaches—they expect only the best and are quick to point fingers if expectations are not met.
Right or wrong, it is Brown's job and responsibility to have his players in a position to win every night and to go deep into the playoffs each and every year.
To say that Brown has been a failure would not be fair, given that he has coached the Lakers for less than one full season and inherited a Phil Jackson-led club that had been pummeled by Dallas in the second round of the 2011 playoffs.
Brown took over and, while the strike languished, watched as management tried to trade away Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. He ultimately lost both Derek Fisher and Odom, the latter having demanded a trade because he felt hurt by the team's decision to move him in the failed Chris Paul deal to New Orleans.
Still, there was plenty of talent remaining on the Lakers for the team to make a run at a title. Brown must bear some of the responsibility for not having the team perform up to expectations.
Is Mike Brown the right coach to lead L.A. to another title?
Possibly the biggest issue with Brown's coaching is a perceived lack of a cohesive offense. Brown has always been known more for his defensive abilities.
The main reason the Cavaliers were successful during Brown's tenure was not because of any brilliant offensive schemes—it was due mostly to the play of LeBron James. The overall talent level in L.A. is much higher than in Cleveland, and that sort of a stagnant offense just doesn't fly here.
We're all too familiar with what happened this past season. The offense rarely ran legitimate plays and didn't do a good job of moving the ball around. A typical possession saw Kobe Bryant dribbling in isolation and, with five seconds left in the clock, hoisting up desperation shots that all too often missed their target.
Bryant was partially responsible for getting Brown and management to consider the Princeton Offense for this season.
Brown also mismanaged Pau Gasol last season, having him play out of position as more of a facilitator for Bryant and Andrew Bynum than as a scorer. That shouldn't happen again under the Princeton scheme and because the team finally has a legitimate star point guard in Steve Nash.
Brown also has a habit of overplaying certain players and under-utilizing others. He cannot afford to let that happen again, especially with the talent the Lakers have on their current roster. Bryant averaged 38.5 minutes last season and it wore him down. Kobe's minutes should be around 32-34.
Conversely, Metta World Peace complained loudly last season when his minutes were squeezed by Brown. Andrew Bynum didn't seem to respect his coach and others, like Matt Barnes, saw their roles lessened considerably.
Mike Brown's style is night and day from that of Phil Jackson, winner of five titles with L.A. and 11 overall world championships. To his credit, Brown has been Coach of the Year (Cleveland in 2009) and is used to winning, but winning games and winning championships are vastly different.
Although he received mostly passing grades for his first season in Los Angeles, the book is still out on Mike Brown. When asked late last season if he thought his team would respond well to a critical playoff game, he said he had no idea. Something in his coaching DNA seemed to be missing.
As L.A. Times columnist Bill Plashke summed it up in a May story: "Phil Jackson always seemed to know, and Pat Riley made a cottage industry out of knowing, and though it is unfair to compare Brown with two of the best coaches in NBA history, it is completely fair to wonder if he fits into the Lakers' championship culture. Kinda. Sorta. Not really. Not yet."
If the Lakers are playing like a championship team at the All-Star break, expect Mike Brown to be around for a while. If not, the coach could be looking for a new gig soon thereafter.