Mike Brown is no stranger to a lofty challenge.
As coach of the Cavs from 2005-10, he was asked to win multiple championships with a once-in-a-generation centerpiece surrounded by momma's boy (pun intended) Delonte West, sideshow Zydrunas Ilgauskas and some glorified suburban rec league players. With LeBron as the front man, many people have overlooked the tremendous coaching job it took to squeeze a pair of 60-plus-win seasons (2008-09, 2009-10) and an NBA Finals appearance (2007) out of such a subpar roster.
Now Brown is about to be handed the keys to another once-in-a-generation centerpiece, even if Kobe Bryant has compiled more mileage than the Outback Madden Cruiser.
But Kobe’s supporting cast is 100 times more talented than LeBron’s ever was in Cleveland. This is where Brown’s challenge is different this time around.
In Los Angeles, he will be assuming a task two other respected coaches have miserably failed at the last 12 years: replacing Phil Jackson. Tim Floyd went 49-190 in a little more than two seasons after replacing the "Zen Master" in Chicago in 1999. Rudy Tomjanovich didn’t even last a full season as the Lakers' head man after replacing Jackson between his Los Angeles stints in 2004-05.
Replacing a legend is one of the hardest tasks in sports to begin with; replacing the greatest team sports coach in professional history is 10 times harder. In order to convince fans to forget that legend, you need to have a strong enough personality to convince them your style is not merely a continuation of the man you replaced.
Granted, the Lakers are still a title contender, but L.A. is fresh off an embarrassing second-round playoff demolition. They’re also potentially on the verge of a major roster shake-up (with the exception of Bryant).
This gives Brown a golden opportunity to fix L.A.’s glaring flaws in his own pugnacious image, the exact opposite of Jackson’s Zen-like balm. Here are 10 other sports figures who succeeded in similar pressure-packed situations.