It's All About "D" for Mike Brown's Lakers
By Joey Kaufman/Special to LAist
The Mike Brown era officially began for the Lakers on Tuesday, and well, you better like defense.
“I gotta preach it, I gotta talk it, I gotta teach it,” Brown said.
The Lakers officially announced the hiring of the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tuesday with an ensemble of reporters present at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
“We're very pleased to welcome Mike Brown to the Lakers,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “What Mike brings to the table is unique in that he's a proven winner in this league and yet also a rising star in his profession.”
The 41-year-old coach signed a four-year, $18.25 million contract becoming the franchise’s 22nd head coach replacing Phil Jackson who led the Lakers to five NBA championships in his two tenures with the team.
“I was excited,” Brown said about receiving an offer last week. “I have great admiration for the tradition and success the Lakers have had.”
Despite two championships and three NBA Finals appearances in the last four seasons under Jackson, Brown remarked on his intention to craft a Lakers team in his own image.
“I’ll define the culture, the roles and hold people accountable. Part of the culture will be one of trust, communication, defense, a no excuses mentality, a family environment and a determined work ethic.”
Defense, unquestionably, remains Brown’s forte.
In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, his final two years in Cleveland, the Cavs finished first and fifth respectively in opponents’ points per game. In those two seasons, Brown’s teams finished with 66 and 61 wins, winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2009.
“I felt my time with LeBron was very productive,” said Brown, who finished with a 66.3 percent winning percentage in five years in Cleveland - the fifth highest in NBA history. “I don’t know why or how people would think differently.”
Despite impressive regular season win totals in those seasons, the team faltered down the stretch in the postseason, falling to the Orlando Magic in the conference finals in 2009 and the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals in 2010. Brown was fired as a result, and now, despite no championship experience, takes over for a coach with eleven rings - most in league history.
“I’m not here to fill his shoes,” Brown said. “I’m here to help this team and this organization carve our own path to success.”
A defensive infusion might work out just fine, as the Lakers struggled mightily during the Western Conference semifinals swept by the Dallas Mavericks. In the deciding Game 4 Dallas made 20 three-pointers tying an NBA-record in a 36-point blowout win over the L.A.
“What happened to [the Lakers] has made them hungry,” Brown remarked.
Yet offense still remains the primary question mark surrounding Brown as his teams appeared stagnant, confused and often times too reliant upon LeBron James.
The million dollar question remains: will that change in Los Angeles.
With the Lakers, Brown hopes to build an offense similar to that of the 2003 San Antonio Spurs team, where he served as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich. That season they won an NBA title featuring two seven-footers in Tim Duncan and David Robinson, similar to the Lakers’ current tandem of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
“A lot of what I will take offensively will stem from when I was with San Antonio,” Brown said. “We’ll do something with what they did.”
But as usual, keeping Kobe happy might even be more important.
“This is still his team,” said Brown, who has already spoken with the future hall-of-fame guard at length. “His role will not change. He has a great understanding of my vision and he’s on board.”