L.A. Lakers: Meeting Mike Brown and the Finalized Lakers Coaching Staff
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brown finalized the core of the Lakers coaching staff last Friday, tabbing Chuck Person and Quin Snyder to join former NBA head coach John Kuester as Brown's right-hand men to start the 2011-2012 NBA season, whenever that may be.
The hirings came on the same day the Lakers front office decided not to renew the contracts of approximately 20 key members of the Lakers training, video, scouting and player development staff, including assistant general manager Ronnie Lester.
While support staff decisions were made by Lakers management and for the most part were strictly monetary decisions, the coaching staff is mostly decided by Brown himself. Who Mike Brown chooses to go to battle with is important, as these individuals will be relied upon to beat the drum of the Lakers' offensive, defensive and cultural philosophies day in and day out.
Let's meet the staff and see what they can bring to the Lakers.
Quin Snyder brings head coaching experience at the collegiate level to the Lakers, having coached Missouri from 1999 to 2006 to a 126-91 record which included two appearances in the NIT tournament, four appearances in the NCAA tournament and most notably a trip to the Elite Eight in 2002.
After Missouri, Snyder transitioned to a head coaching position for the Austin Toros in the National Basketball Development League (NBDL). In three NBDL seasons, Snyder led his team to the NBDL Finals once and the NBDL semifinals twice. Snyder received the NBDL Coach of the Year Award in 2009.
Prior to joining the Lakers, Snyder worked for the Philadelphia 76ers as an assistant coach. Brown said of Snyder, "With the addition of Quin to my coaching staff, we've added someone who has an extremely intelligent basketball mind."
Brown, a self-proclaimed basketball nerd in his own right, most certainly appreciates a coach with a high basketball IQ. It is no surprise, then, that Brown nabbed Snyder who—like Brown—can spend hours upon hours in the film room chatting X's and O's.
Beyond his experience as a head coach, Snyder brings an irreplaceable look into the basketball underpinnings of Duke University, having served as an assistant under basketball royalty Mike Krzyzewski from 1993 to 1999. If the Lakers front office can't get Coach K as their next head coach to replace the Zen Master, then a Coach K disciple will do just fine.
Former NBA player and respected assistant coach, "The Rifleman" Chuck Person brings valuable insight as a player and coach, and even front office experience to Brown's coaching staff (he served as special assistant to the CEO/president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers). His career includes assistant coaching roles for the Indiana Pacers (2005-2007), Sacramento Kings (2007-2009) and most recently, the Los Angeles Lakers (2009-2011).
Person, known for his pinpoint sharpshooting as a player, has established himself as a tough, defensive-minded coach. During last season, when the Lakers began to routinely allow teams to score 100-plus points a night, Person directed and implemented a new defensive scheme to help the Lakers. Under the new scheme, guards were to fight over screens (no switching), press the corners and funnel all activity to the bigs in the lane.
Person's system worked, helping the Lakers go on the spectacular 16-1 run after the All-Star break. Whether the players subsequently quit or lost focus after this success was beyond Person and the rest of the coaching staff.
One thing is for sure: "The Rifleman" knows his defense.
Almost as important as Person's defensive mindset is the continuity he brings to the locker room. Person is the only holdover from the Phil Jackson era, with Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw all leaving to seek employment under new NBA affiliations. Lakers players already respect Person, something head coach Mike Brown must earn with his new team.
With "The Rifleman" and his undeniably intense scowl at his side, Brown's job of instilling new team philosophies becomes that much easier.
Former Pistons head coach John Kuester joins the Lakers coaching staff after working with Mike Brown during a stint in Cleveland. Kuester brings much experience with mixed results, including head coaching experience in the NCAA and assistant coaching forays with the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets and Orlando Magic.
Most notably, Kuester led—or struggled to lead—a rather juvenile Detroit Pistons team to a 57-107 record in which the players admittedly quit on their coach during the season. Regardless of whether Kuester is accountable for his players' apathy, this lopsided record in such an iconic basketball city like Detroit will likely not overwhelm Laker fans with excitement.
During his time in Cleveland, Kuester helped craft the offense as the team's offensive coordinator. While the pileup on Kuester and Cleveland's "pass LeBron the ball" offense will naturally follow him, Cleveland certainly did not have the players of the Lakers' caliber and were thus forced to run such a one-dimensional offense that, to the dismay of his detractors, ranked among the NBA's top 10 in offensive efficiency.
Shifting back into a strictly offensive role for Kuester, as well as the addition of special consultant Ettore Messina, will likely benefit the Lakers as they move away from the triple-post, triangle offense and begin to find a new offensive identity.
Much has been written about Mike Brown since the Lakers hired him as heir apparent to Phil Jackson back in late May. Brown will be given the chance to silence his critics if and when the NBA season begins. But as evidenced from his introductory press conference and his statements thereafter, Brown brings his own brand of offensive and defensive philosophies that he hopes will return the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to Los Angeles.
Brown has publicly stated how he intends to do this. In his own words, it begins with "trust, communication, defense, a no-excuses mentality, a family environment, and a determined work ethic." Brown's "shrink the court" and "contest every shot" defensive philosophy helped Cleveland compile a 272-138 record and consistently rank among the NBA's top defensive teams.
Offensively, Brown intends to "attack the clock," looking for early offense on the break and in set offensive formations, wants to swing the ball side to side with at least two paint touches.
As for his team's culture, Brown is serious in his attempts to establish a family environment. He's publicly stated that he spoke at length with the wives of Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, and he even had conversations with Andrew Bynum's mother.
Still, much work has to be done to seriously establish a familial collective among the Lakers' larger-than-life personalities, but Brown will no doubt continue these efforts. If team chemistry was at fault for the Lakers' embarrassing exit from the playoffs, Brown has every intention of correcting it.
Will the Coaching Staff Work?
The Lakers coaching staff looks good on paper. But will it translate into success? That is most certainly up to the players, namely Kobe Bryant.
Despite Mike Brown's title of "head coach," this still is—and will be—Kobe Bryant's team. And whether Brown's teachings will become Laker gospel is entirely up to Kobe.
But one thing is certain: This coaching staff does not lack basketball intelligence. From Mike Brown to Quin Snyder, the Lakers coaches are individuals with highly acute basketball minds and a passion for X's and O's. This love for the game will hopefully win over Kobe and the rest of the team, with the hardware to prove it.