Posted May 25 2011 5:01PM
The Los Angeles Lakers reached agreement in principle with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown Wednesday on a four-year contract worth more than $18 million to replace 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson. The fourth year is at the team's option, according to a source, although there are incentives in the deal that could guarantee the final season.
Brown, 41, beat out former Rockets, Kings, Warriors and Blazers head coach Rick Adelman and current Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw for the position, winning over the Lakers' brass with his commitment to defense that made the Cavs one of the league's top defensive units. He had a solid relationship with LeBron James, getting James to buy in to the need to improve his perimeter defensive skills. In Los Angeles, Brown will have an aging roster but will also have a superstar in Kobe Bryant to build around.
Brown went 272-138 (.663) in five seasons with the Cavaliers, after assistant coaching stints in Washington, Denver, San Antonio and Indiana. He quickly made the Cavs into one of the league's best defensive teams, leaving most of the offense to assistant coaches like John Kuester (now the Pistons' head coach).
Brown was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2009 after leading the Cavaliers to a league-best 66-16 record, and the following season, Cleveland went 61-21. But the Cavalliers were upset in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by Boston, amid deteriorating play and internal criticism of Brown's player rotation. Owner Dan Gilbert opted to fire Brown after the playoffs, a decision that led to then team president Danny Ferry's decision to leave the organization.
The decision to hire Brown is a signature moment for Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, the son of owner Jerry Buss, who in the last couple of years has become the franchise's chief decision-maker on most issues. The younger Buss came to the Lakers' organization in 1997 after working in many jobs, including as a trainer for some of his father's horses. Jim Buss often clashed with Jackson -- the two have barely spoken in the last year, Jackson said at his season-ending news conference a couple of weeks ago -- and he also often disagreed with former Lakers GM Jerry West -- who just accepted a job this week on the board of the Golden State Warriors. When West left to go to Memphis in 2002, the road was cleared for Jim Buss to become the Lakers' ultimate decision maker.
When Kobe Bryant was displeased with the team's roster following the 2007 playoffs -- and ultimately asked to be traded -- Jim Buss was insistent that the team not deal young center Andrew Bynum, as Bryant had asked. He has resisted all such potential deals for Bynum ever since, including last February, when the Lakers looked at acquiring Carmelo Anthony from Denver.
The Lakers were insistent that they would not come anywhere close to the $10 million they paid Jackson in his last season, much less the $12.5 million he'd gotten the year before.The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the team would spend between $3 and $5 million per season for a new coach, and after starting negotiations with Brown at slightly more than $3 million per season, they came up, while Brown came down from his demand for a contract equal to the $6 million per that Mike D'Antoni is getting in New York with the Knicks.
Brown was also a top candidate for the Golden State Warriors' head coaching vacancy, with Shaw, Adelman, ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson and Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank among the other candidates. The Warriors, according to a league source, have also interviewed New Orleans Hornets lead assistant coach Michael Malone for a top assistant position. Many around the league believe Malone will soon get a head coaching position.
Adelman, 64, received strong consideration from the Lakers as well. His strong record over the years with veteran teams in Portland (where the Blazers made the Finals in 1990 and 1992), Sacramento (where he is the franchise's all-time winningest coach, getting the Kings to within a game of the 2002 Finals) and Houston made him a prime candidate in Los Angeles. Adelman has been able to change his attack on the fly, going from a high-post offense when excellent passing big men Vlade Divac and Chris Webber were on the roster in Sacramento to posting up wing players like Bonzi Wells and Ron Artest.
He did the same thing this season in Houston when the Rockets lost Yao Ming for the season with a stress fracture, going from a low-post attack to a perimeter game featuring guards Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry.
Adelman has won 945 games, in eighth place on the NBA's win list, passing legendary coaches Bill Fitch and Red Auerbach this season. His teams have made the playoffs 16 times in 20 seasons.
Shaw, a Lakers' assistant the last five seasons after playing for them from 1999 to 2003, was the choice of many within the organization, including Bryant and Derek Fisher. But the Lakers' flameout in the second round against Dallas likely hurt his candidacy with a front office looking to shake things up. Jerry Buss said in a radio interview Tuesday that he and his son didn't ask for and didn't especially want the input of players when deciding who the next head coach would be.
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