On Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers announced Mike Brown as the 22nd coach in franchise history.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for me," said Brown to a large assembly of media members. "I have great admiration for the success that the Lakers organization and the Buss family have had throughout the years … my goal is to continue the course, to continue to help build upon the very strong championship foundation that has been laid here already."
Brown saw considerable success in his previous head coaching position with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-2010), averaging 54.4 wins per season for a 66.3 percent winning percentage, the fifth highest in NBA history. The league's Coach of the Year after a 66-win season (2008-09), Brown led his Cavs to the Finals in 2007, and made it to at least the second round of the playoffs in all five of his years in the top seat.
"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," said Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. "After an extensive and thorough search to find the right person to help carry on our championship legacy, we feel that Mike is poised and ready to do so."
Championship-level success has always been a mandate for the Lakers of the Buss family. L.A. has won at least 57 games in each of the past four seasons, three of which resulted in trips to the Finals before 2011's disappointing Round 2 exit. With a roster among the league's most talented, experienced and expensive, the expectation for Brown in his first year will be simple: title, or bust.
"We don't play for second here," said Brown.
Brown, like every other NBA coach currently manning a sideline – with the exception of Boston's Doc Rivers and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich – failed to get over the ultimate hump while in Cleveland, but he said it's made him hungrier, and helped him form a clear plan.
"My responsibility as a leader of the Los Angeles Lakers is to provide a platform for this organization to achieve maximum success, and maximum success is hanging up on the walls here on a yearly basis," he said. "I'll define a culture, I'll define roles, and I'll hold people accountable. The make up of the culture will be one of trust, communication, defense, no excuses mentality, a family environment and a determined work ethic."
Brown then detailed his three central tenets of both offense (attack the clock, get ball reversal with paint touches, and spacing) and defense (shrink the floor, don't give up middle drives, and get multiple efforts to finish with a shot contest). He revealed that he's already spoken to several players at length, including Kobe Bryant, whom he said was "on board" with Brown's plans.
Dr. Jerry Buss said that he, his son Jim Buss and Kupchak were very impressed with Brown's vision, because Brown "Seemed to me to know exactly what to do with this team." The three were unanimous in their decision to hire Brown.
Now 41 years old, Brown attended high school in Germany, played two years of college hoops at the University of San Diego, and has two sons (Elijah and Cameron) with his wife, Carolyn. He broke into the NBA in 1992 with Denver before moving on to Washington (1997-2000), San Antonio (2000-2003) and Indiana (2003-05). Brown worked under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs, where he earned a 2003 championship ring, and was the associate head coach for current Mavs coach Rick Carlisle Indiana, helping lead one of the NBA's best defenses.
It's defense for which Brown is known, and it's upon that end of the floor where he has focused for the bulk of his coaching career. According to NBA.com, Brown's Cavaliers teams consistently rated among the league's best defensively, finishing first in defensive efficiency in 2008-09, second in 2009-10 and in the top eight in four of his five years. Brown's Cavs were generally even better defensively in the postseason, helping deliver a 42-19 playoff record (.592).
In addition to talent and length, NBA defense is about effort and execution. Brown's ability to inspire such energy and attention to detail on that end of the court should mesh well with L.A.'s in-place personnel. In fact, the Lakers have been very good defensively in the past few seasons, finishing fifth in FG percentage against (.437) in 2010-11 and dominating on D during a 17-1 burst out of the All-Star break before slipping considerably late in the regular season and in the playoffs, mental and physical fatigue permeating the team.
Brown said that while the Lakers will not run the triangle offense, but "will have bits and pieces of it incorporated." He explained that while his defensive system can be run with any team, the offense will be built around L.A.'s personnel, playing to the strengths of each key player.
What Brown plans to do from an X and O standpoint remains to be seen, but that's not his only focus.
"I feel like one of my strengths is to manage people, and as crazy as this sounds, being a head coach in the NBA is not just about X's and O's," he said. "For me, it's about managing people and managing egos."
Managing egos is something that Phil Jackson did better than anyone, and Brown is well cognizant of the fact that he is replacing the best and most successful coach in NBA history. But while Brown said he has a great deal of respect for Jackson, he's not here to fill Jackson's shoes.
"I'm not (Phil Jackson), I'm not going to be him," Brown said. "I have to be who I am."
As for his help, Brown said he has a list of coaches that he'll discuss with Kupchak before making collective decisions. His various assistants with the Cavs have spread around the league to other staffs, with Mike Malone in New Orleans, Melvin Hunt in Denver, John Kuester taking the head coaching job in Detroit after the 2008-09 season, and Hank Egan, who retired.
All in all, the Brown hiring pairs of a group of veteran players eager to prove that their days as champions aren't over, and a coach chomping at the bit to prove himself to a new city.
"I'm a big guy, and I like to eat," concluded Brown. "It makes me hungry, and what happened to them has made them hungry. Hopefully, when we start training camp, I'll have 15 angry men that I have to work with.
"I'm ready to get to work."
EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Mike Brown as head coach, it was announced today.
Brown, the 22nd head coach in franchise history and 18th in the Los Angeles era, spent last season as an NBA analyst for ESPN after previously serving as head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hired by the Cavaliers in June of 2005, the 2008-09 NBA Coach of the Year posted a 272-138 regular season record over five seasons as well as a 42-29 postseason mark, ranking fifth in NBA history (minimum 400 games) with a .663 regular season win percentage and 10th in NBA history (minimum 25 games) with a .592 playoff win percentage.
The fourth youngest coach in NBA history to win 60 games in a season, Brown led the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals and NBA-best records in both 2008-09 (66-16) and 2009-10 (61-21). His 2008-09 team became just the 12th team in NBA history to record 66 victories in a season while he and his staff earned the honor midway through that season to coach the Eastern Conference All-Star Team at the 2009 All-Star Game in Phoenix, AZ.
"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. After an extensive and thorough search to find the right person to help carry on our championship legacy, we feel that Mike is poised and ready to do so."
Brown joined the Cavaliers after spending two seasons as the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers and three seasons as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. Posting a 341-201 (.629) record as an assistant coach, he won division titles with Indiana (2003-04) and three straight division titles with San Antonio (2000-03). While with the Spurs, Brown's teams won at least 58 games each season as well as the 2003 NBA Championship. In his two seasons in Indiana, he helped the Pacers to consecutive playoff appearances including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004.
Brown, a 1992 graduate of the University of San Diego with a degree in business, played basketball two seasons at USD after spending two years at Mesa Community College. The 41-year-old (born March 5, 1970 in Columbus, Ohio) began his NBA career with the Denver Nuggets in 1992, where he spent five seasons, first as the team's video coordinator and then as a scout. Following his time with the Nuggets, Brown spent three years with the Washington Wizards beginning in 1997, spending the first two years as an assistant under Bernie Bickerstaff and his final year as the team's professional scout.