Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who's That? Brooooowwwwwn!

Well, it's official: Mike Brown is the successor to the Zen Master's throne. The news came as a shock to me, as it did to many in Lakers Land. I was all but certain that Brian Shaw would get the gig. Heck, he was Kobe's choice! Safest bet, I thought. He'd been under Phil Jackson's tutelage for years and it just seemed like the right choice to me - a rite of passage you might say. Nope. Rick Adelman's name was popping up on the radar too. Quite frankly I paid those rumors no mind. Adelman is a great coach, sure, but in my heart of hearts I knew the Buss family - and Lakers fans - probably wouldn't be breaking bread with the man who coached that vicious Kings squad from the early-to-mid aughties. I remember hating everybody on that team with a passion (especially Doug Christie). My dark horse candidate was Jeff Van Gundy, but then again I'd like to see that guy doing just about anything: hosting game shows, running for public office, giving me a reason to watch Dancing with the Stars, you name it. #iFuxwitJeffVanGundy #ThankYouBasedGundy

I never expected Mike Brown to get the nod, but now I find myself asking: what can Brown do for us? Let's start with the positives. Phil Jackson's regular season win percentage during his tenure as the Lakers' head coach (eleven seasons) was 67.6%. Mike Brown's five years with the Cavs produced a 66.3% win average. Not too shabby. Mike Brown won the Coach of the Year award in 2009 (side note: Phil's won it too, only once; let that sink in for a moment; don't destroy your furniture in the process). Mike Brown is a defensive-oriented coach. I like that. Simply put, defense wins championships (side note: wake up, Donnie Walsh). Even Kobe knows this, as he stated in his exit interview: "If you’re building a championship team, the DNA always has to start on the defensive end of the floor. Always. I’m a firm believer in that. I don’t believe in building a championship team on offense. It has to be built on defense and rebounding."

On to the negatives, my reasons for being weary of a Mike Brown-led Lakers squad are twofold: first off, I hate to see the triangle go. Seven Finals berths and five 'chips? Hate it or love it, the triangle's been good to us. Secondly, perception is crucial. Lakers haters (read: people who'd clench their ass if they bumped into Kobe in a dark alley) are vociferous and vicious when they want to be. But they couldn't talk smack about Phil. The worst they could say was "yeah, he only won those rings because he had amazing players like Jordan and Kobe." Psh, lame argument. Now with Brown as head coach, the opposite is true: "yeah, he flamed out in the playoffs, even with an amazing player like LeBron." They might be right about that. If he doesn't produce results in his first year, that will be his stigma, not simply as the coach of LeBron James, but as a coach, period. Phil Jackson's swagger is Mick Jagger. He's got an air of invincibility like Barack Obama after killing Bin Laden. Mike Brown is a perpetual Michael Dukakis during his "tank moment." At least that's my perception. Maybe I'm being mean.

Then there's the immeasurables worth mentioning: Ron Artest often talked about "bailing" on the Pacers squad he played for several years ago, and hoping he could have performed to his full potential. Guess who (assistant) coached that team? Mike Brown. Ron's got a second chance to redeem himself - while doubling up on his ring collection. Second, perhaps the play design implemented during the past few years - despite resulting in two rings - wasn't the ideal system for a Lakers squad which features two starting big men (each of whom can effectively play the center position if need be). Let's see how Brown can shake that up. Don't forget, he was the assistant coach to Gregg Popovich during the Spurs' 2000-2003 seasons, when the team was led by the twin towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. A departure from the triangle might not be such a bad thing after all. One of the flaws of the triangle offense is that it's got two of the five players on the court essentially camping out, waiting for the other three players to create plays out of thin air. One of my biggest gripes has been against the Lakers' lack of hustle. Triangle principles sort of encourage this laziness. Last but not least, Mike Brown, finally reunited with his long-lost son Shannon, will groom the young padawan to become the Jedi Shooting Guard Master we all know he's destined to be. Yeah, I'm just grasping at straws now...

Yesterday, I visited this LA Times poll which asked "Do you think Mike Brown is a good choice for Lakers coach?" I gave my monitor that patented George W. Bush squint for a while and decided on exiting the page. I've just revisited the site and answered "Yes." I eagerly await Kobe's take. On paper, this can work. Will it work? Ah, that is question! I was born during the glory days of Pat Riley. I saw my first game (at The Forum) when Mike Dunleavy was in charge. My Lakers obsession bloomed during the fruitless Del Harris years and yes, I still remember those weeks with Kurt Rambis (and Dennis Rodman!!!). I kept the faith during the transitional season with Tomjanovich/Hamblen. Despite being the world champs seven out of the twenty-three years I've been alive (dawg, that's just over 30%!), the team has had its ups and downs. We're at a crossroads once again. Trades most definitely need to be made and that burden does not lie on Brown's shoulders. A newly-configured roster - tweaked at the very least - is crucial to the team's success. Bottom line, the sense of urgency to get this team back on track is promising. Let's see what Brown can do. And if all else fails we'll just hire Phil Jackson again... ha! The South(west) shall rise again!