2012 NBA Playoffs: Does Mike Brown Deserve Some Credit After All?

Noah Poinar@@noah_poinarCorrespondent IMay 1, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22:  Ramon Sessions #7 and head coach Mike Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers consult during the game with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on April 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The  Lakers won 114-106 in double overtime.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Mike Brown would have been third on my Coach of the Year Ballot if I were given a vote. 

The Coach of the Year award is the most subjective accolade in all of professional sports.  It usually goes to either a.) the coach of the best team, b.) the coach of the most surprising team, or c.) the coach that did the most with the least amount of talent. 

This season the Lakers did not fall into any of those categories, so that’s enough of a reason to dismiss Brown.  Actually, there’s about 100 reasons to dismiss Brown. However, the Lakers fell into a category unlike any we’ve seen in the history of the NBA. Here’s why...

One: The NBA lockout forced a truncated 66-game schedule upon every team.

Two: The Lakers were one of the few teams who had made a coaching change in the offseason. Kobe Bryant was not at all happy with the Lakers' decision, either.  He wanted former teammate and longtime assistant Bryan Shaw at the helm, as did the majority of Lakers fans—if not Shaw, then Rick Adeleman.  Kobe even expressed his public displeasure with the hiring

Three: The Lakers were coming off a season in which they were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs.

Four: Not long after the lockout ended, the Lakers traded Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for Chris Paul.  Less than 24 hours later, it became the first major trade in professional sports to be vetoed by a commissioner.

Five: After this veto, Pau Gasol was forced to return to the Lakers, AKA the team that just traded him.  Lamar Odom, meanwhile, did not take as nicely as Gasol did to this.  He demanded a trade.  And just like that, the Lakers' fourth best player was out the door on his way to Dallas, and L.A. had nothing to show for it.  Okay, they had a little to show for it—the Clippers wound up getting Chris Paul.

Six: There was a fellow by the name of Dwight Howard who was on the trading block.  You think the Magic dealt with uncertainty this year?  No one’s ever really thought about it from the Lakers' side.  Bynum and Gasol were on the trading block since day one.

Seven:  The only deal the Lakers actually ended up making was to acquire point guard Ramon Sessions.  This acquisition didn’t set the team back a bit.  We’re not even completely sure it helped them.

Throughout all of this, the Lakers managed to finish with the third seed in the West.  In any other year this would be a recipe for a Coach of the Year candidate. 

Sadly, this isn’t just any other year, and this isn’t just some head coach who would normally be eligible for such an award.  In fact, the only reason Browns isn’t eligible is because of Tom Thibodeau and Greg Popovich

The word on the street is that the Lakers have won in spite of Mike Brown.  

And what exactly is your complaint, Lakers fans? 

What everyone forgets is that Mike Brown probably handled the Lakers' head coaching position better than anyone else could have.  He could have easily come in there and folded like a lawn chair, succumbing to everything that came with taking over the almighty Lakers' head coaching position. 

Instead, he’s voiced his displeasure in certain players, fended off the nagging media and allowed Kobe Bryant to be his inner self—which is a coldblooded scorer who will shoot the ball at will.  It’s actually worked pretty well.

In other words, Mike Brown has done the only thing he really had to...keep Kobe happy.  In the process, the Lakers ended up with the third seed, and Andrew Bynum wound up becoming the best center in the league. 

Perhaps Mike Brown’s strategy of pissing off half his team in an attempt to spitefully motivate his team has worked better than he expected.  Or perhaps Mike Brown is such a terrible organizational leader that he’s stumbled into one of the few situations where his deficiencies actually had positive ramifications. 

Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve had Mike Brown wrong all this time.   

Prior to being fired in Cleveland, Brown and the Cavaliers had the league's best record two seasons in a row.  This was with a team that consisted of LeBron James and “a bunch of nobodies.” 

In evaluating Mike Brown’s coaching expertise, we have to ask ourselves this question:  Did Brown wilt under the pressure of the playoffs in his last two seasons with the Cavs, or was it LeBron James who wilted?  I’m assuming right now you’re more inclined to say the latter, LeBron James.  

If we've learned much of anything over the years, it’s that defense wins championships.  Mike Brown is the direct disciple of Greg Popovich (the soon-to-be-named Coach of the Year) and a very underrated defensive coach. 

So along with the incentive disdain that he’s somehow inspired his team with, he brings a helluva defensive mind to the table.  If you’re coaching a talented Lakers team with possible ego clashes written all over it, that’s not a bad combo to bring to the table.  

If the Lakers are eliminated from the playoffs, it is a sure bet the blame will predominantly lie with Mike Brown.  Brown is in a lose-lose situation at this point.  He’s not Kobe, and he’s not Phil Jackson—therefore he can’t win. 

Sometimes that can be a good thing, though.  Sure, it’s not a good thing if you’re someone like Vinny Del Negro who we can actually point the blame directly to, but for Brown there isn’t any substantial evidence that would say that. 

All the guy has really done is sit Bynum for taking an unnecessary three-pointer and sit Kobe in the fourth quarter of one measly game that, for all intents and purposes, did not matter.  Seriously, that’s probably what he told Kobe...”We need you in the game late in the playoffs, not in this truncated 66-game schedule; I got my priorities in line—do you?” 

I’ll say the same thing to you...When it comes to evaluating Mike Brown, I’ve got my priorities in line—do you?


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