Friend to foe: Lakers coach got his NBA start with Nuggets
Around Pepsi Center, the Los Angeles Lakers are Playoff Enemy No. 1.
Their coach Mike Brown, however, makes them slightly less reviled than when Phil Jackson was perched on the L.A. bench.
Brown’s road to becoming an NBA coach began with the Nuggets when he was hired as the team’s video coordinator in 1992. His wife is from Evergreen and their two children were born at the Children’s Hospital in Denver.
“There’s a lot of great people here,” Brown said, specifically mentioning Nuggets executive director of basketball administration Lisa Johnson. “We had great times here. It’s a really nice place.”
Brown’s other primary Denver connection is with Colorado Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman. The two became friends while attending the University of San Diego, and they were roommates for more than three years at the Tamarac Apartments off Hampden and I-25.
Brown said he helped Sherman get a job in the Nuggets accounting department, and Sherman later worked in the merchandising office at McNichols Sports Arena while continuing to climb the corporate ladder.
“I’m still trying to figure out how becoming a merchandise clerk turned him into the GM of the Avalanche,” Brown joked. “But heck of a story.”
He and Sherman had a chance to trade stories over the weekend when the Lakers and Nuggets played two games at Pepsi Center. Brown invited Sherman to his office before Game 3.
“Just got to be careful,” Brown said with a smile. “I don’t know if he’s trying to get me out of my rhythm. He might try to come soften me up. It’s going to be real brief. I’m going to say hi and tell him to get out.”
Like Sherman, Brown has traveled an interesting career path.
After five seasons with the Nuggets, he left for the Washington Wizards to join former Denver executive/coach Bernie Bickerstaff as an assistant coach. Brown later worked as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers before being named coach of Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005.
Brown, now in his first season with the Lakers, guided the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008-09.