Knee Jerk Reactions: Why Mike Brown had to go


The fate of Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown was sealed right here.

If looks could cause unemployment…

This morning, the Lakers announced that Brown was relieved of his duties and the news kinda moved the needle a wee bit (FYI: I wanted a simple screen grab from a major Internet site that was reporting the news but my Tweetdeck feed was constantly interrupting with messages like the one you see in the top right corner.)

Just yesterday, the Lakers Executive Vice President Jim Buss shared this lie:

“I have no problems with Mike Brown at all,” Buss told ESPN LA. “I don’t know if there’s an actual game total that would make me impatient. I know if we’re 1-15, I don’t think that would be very good. I’m sure that would be a panic button. But at this time, I’m fine with what’s going on. It’s a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we’re fine.”

While he was at it, Buss might as well have assured Laker fans that Santa Claus does exist and that unicorns, not storks, deliver babies to their mamas.

I’ve read many opinions expressed through 140 characters that this was unjustified and unfair. That the man needed time, not the hook. That the Lakers have embarrassed themselves by canning a guy – in this economy no less! – only five games in the season.

Well, they’re right about one thing. The Lakers did embarrass themselves a couple summers ago by bringing in Brown. The truth is that Brown had to go and kudos to my sports editor Greg Jayne in calling it back on Oct. 31

Why the firing of Mike Brown makes sense?

1. His rotations

Last season, his first with the Lakers, could have been and should have been taken as a period to get adjusted. Due to the strike-shortened season, Brown didn’t have the luxury of a full training camp and that matters when you’re new to a team. So, I don’t think anyone in L.A. truly felt he was going to coach the Lakers to a championship last year.

That being said, the things that Brown could control seemed questionable at times. The Lakers brought in Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy for one thing: to spread the floor and shoot. But Brown iced his shooters out of the rotation. Kapono, a career 43% 3-point shooter, wasted away for the majority of the season with DNPs and did not even make the playoff roster. Benching Kapono didn’t make sense for a team near the bottom of the league in 3-point shooting.

But I also couldn’t understand why Brown didn’t give more run to a rookie named Andrew Goudelock. Nicknamed the “Mini Mamba” for his ability to score, Goudelock came from little-known College of Charleston but showed he could blossom in the Association. Through nine of the first 20 games, Goudelock was given at least 10 minutes of action on the floor. In those nine games, he averaged 9.4 points. But as the season wore on, Goudelock couldn’t get off the bench. For a team that had no legitimate backup shooting guard to the real Mamba, the Mini Mamba could have made a difference. The team waived Goudelock before the start of this season.

Also before the start of this year, the Lakers brought in a terrific shooter and former Sixers starter in Jodie Meeks. Meeks signed for the sole purpose in playing as Bryant’s back up, but Brown has Goudelock’d him. Meeks has been lost in the DNP jungle through this 1-4 start, for reasons that make perfect sense when the team ranks 29th out of 30 teams in bench production.

2. No time to waste

The Lakers are built to win a championship, this championship. While Laker fans have panicked over this 1-4 start, folks in the know have preached patience. Even Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey offered this opinion during Thursday’s shootaround:

“Look, the Lakers are going to be fine. I think they’re built to be a playoff team and it’s going to take some time. They’ve got a new system in there, they’ve added a couple coaches to their coaching staff, clearly new players. Anytime you do that, I mean, you’re going to have issues. With the Clippers last year, I think we started 4-6, 4-4 after adding CP late in the process. They’ve had some injuries, guys coming back from injuries but believe me, if anybody in this league thinks that the Lakers aren’t going to be fine and be a factor in June, they’re sorely mistaken.”

More Olshey:

“I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. We played against that team, there’s still the flashes of brilliance but everyone seems to forget, you’ve got a two-time MVP that’s not on the court right now playing point guard. I think when Steve gets back and he gets his chemistry with Dwight, Kobe’s Kobe and everybody else steps up – believe me, we’ll all be watching them in June, I can promise you that.”

I agree with Olshey in that it was too early to write off the Lakers. However, you must wonder: when would be a good time to hit the panic button? When the Lakers start 1-10? Or when they lose by 50 to the Bobcats? Or when they’re going fishing by early May?

That’s the problem. The Lakers are too talented and too old to sit around and wait for things to get figured out. I watched parts of what will go down as Mike Brown’s last game as the Lakers coach. The box score doesn’t begin to show you how pathetic the effort was. His team looked lifeless in Utah. No effort on the defensive end, no passion, no will. I only got a 22 on my ACTs but I ain’t that dumb – the Princeton offense doesn’t work and the players reacted as if they’re rejecting it. Yeah, it was only the fifth game but the Lakers had quit on Mike Brown.

My friend, she’s a diehard Lakers fan who often sends me text messages like she’s an analyst on ESPN. After the game, she texted me this:

“It’s not so much that they weren’t trying. It was like, they refused to try. How do you get out rebounded by the Jazz and also lose the paint?”

Gotta say, she has a point.

3. Good dude, b.a.a.d city

From all accounts, Mike Brown is a gentleman who works harder than anyone else. Surely, he loves his kids and cried during The Notebook. I’ve interacted with him only once and that was indirectly through a pre game press conference. Brown was affable and funny with the reporters. He truly seems like a nice guy.

A nice guy who’s now been fired from two pressure-packed jobs. Brown took LeBron James and ‘nem to the 2007 NBA Finals. Not bad considering that the LeBronettes weren’t the most desired role players to fill around the super star. Brown also won 60 games in Cleveland – TWICE! – but never won what mattered in this league. (Makes you wonder if all the “LeBron isn’t clutch” rhetoric was misplaced when the coach deserved more blame)

This season, he’s given all the tools to win and the only thing he has to show for it is a blowout over the 0-5 Detroit Pistons. A blowout, mind you, in which Brown reinserted his starters in the fourth quarter while the team was ahead 24 points.

Either way you look at it – whether he was blessed or burdened with supreme talent and high expectations – Brown has not delivered in his two stops as head coach. The lights only got brighter in L.A., and although he never lost his religion while under the Laker pressure, Brown never promoted confidence to a fanbase that was used to Zen and extreme amounts of hair gel. Although Phil Jackson and Pat Riley aren’t walking through that door, the Lakers can now regroup and start again.

He got the hook quicker than a country western act at the Apollo. But Mike Brown had to go.

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