In the NBA, there is often a stark difference between a good NBA coach and the right NBA coach for your team.
I always thought that Larry Brown was a good NBA coach, but never the right coach for the New York Knicks. It didn’t fit.
I feel the same way about Mike Brown.
As the Lakers begin to narrow their coaching search, the buzz is out that Mike Brown, the former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, is on the radar of Lakers brass. It’s not that Mike Brown isn’t a good coach, but it’s about whether or not Mike Brown is the right coach.
Certain jobs in life require certain managers. Effectively, that’s what a head coach is. He’s the manager of people.
I have mentioned before that prior to my new gig I used to work for Walgreens. In my time, I had seen 30 to 40 different assistant managers and three different store managers. Each one with their own personality and their own way of doing things and managing us.
My store was filled with employees who had a ton of seniority. They had been there for years and would be there for years after the new manager moved on or quit. So, when a manager came in and tried to micro-manage my store, they were chewed up and spit out accordingly. Life was never easy for them.
The same came when hot shot kids out of college (completely disillusioned by what a marketing degree actually brought them) thought they understood how to do a job better than those who had been there for 10 years.
Those people: chewed up, spit out.
NBA coaches are no different and the Lakers need to keep that in mind. It’s important to understand who Mike Brown was and what the expectation is in LA.
Brown made his name off of managing LeBron James, which is to say he made his name off of having to bend to the will of a spoiled superstar. His teams were largely successful, though never achieving an NBA title. You can put that on LeBron, but the resume for Brown will read the same.
NBA Championships: Zero.
The Lakers aren’t the Clippers. They aren’t the Warriors or even the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are a team with 16 franchise titles and a tradition of winning and they won’t be rebuilding anytime soon.
Sure, there will be roster turnover as they dump contracts and wait to see if Dwight Howard gets restless in Orlando, but the Lakers know they have a short window of time to add more banners to the rafters.
Kobe is aging quickly and his ego hasn’t quite caught up with his declining physical ability, but the end is in sight.
For a team with two titles and three finals appearances in the last four years, they need a coach who understands how to manage egos. Imagine the relentless determination of Kobe Bryant, the newfound celebrity of Lamar Odom, the unmanageable behavior of Ron Artest and add the element of a possible Dwight Howard enjoying the bright lights of LA for the first time.
You don’t need a coach, you need a whole team of coaches.
The only way that a coach can manage those players is by commanding their respect. In the NBA commanding respect is as fruitless a pursuit as trying to touch the sun. It can’t be done. Either you have the respect going into the job, or you don’t. It can’t be earned.
This is why Phil Jackson was the Lakers best possible option. It’s why people hinted at Reilly taking over for the Miami Heat and it’s why Mike Brown ultimately failed in Cleveland.
He can’t walk into the Staples center with no rings and a past marred by a superstar who pushed him out of town, then turn to a group of entitled champions and superstars and say, “I call the shots and what I say goes.”
Sure, the Lakers will play nice at first, but the moment there are cracks in the wall no one will be looking to stop the leaking because no one will give Mike Brown that level of respect.
Mike Brown would work on a number of other teams, so this isn’t to smear his reputation as a coach. It’s about putting his reputation into perspective.
The Lakers demand a top level coach to get them back to the NBA Finals. Mike Brown is just short of that guy.
The Lakers know it. They’ll just chew him up and spit him out.