It’s Hollywood — Tinsel Town, home of high drama, great theater, big time business and the Lakers.
So, it was not really surprising that the NBA team with all the gold banners hanging from the rafters at the Staples Center, the jewel of a franchise, got rid of the cement block of a coach dragging the franchise down.
Mike Brown was ousted just five games into the regular season, watching his high-priced roster sleepwalk through an (0-8) preseason and a regressing (1-4) start to the regular season. Cheers became jeers. Boos bounced around the building. And the glitzy patrons in the $2,500 seats courtside gave you the impression they wouldn’t tolerate this type of team and might not be coming back either.
So, in one swift move, following a week of anger, player sniping, mounting media criticism and dreadful losses from their $100 million payroll, the coach paid the price. And what a price. The Lakers swallowed the $11 million they owed Brown on the remaining years of his contract.
I never got that the last time I was asked to leave. Doubt you did, either. Of course, Brown will likely never get a head coaching job again in the association after failing in Cleveland and in Los Angeles with two of the brightest stars ever on his teams. If you can’t win with LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, you don’t deserve the job.
And now the wait begins. Will Phil Jackson come out of retirement again and go for another NBA championship ring? Will his health, all those hip surgeries, and the stress of game prep, video sessions, practices, travel and dealing with egos remind him that retirement as a rich man is better than coaching rich men again?
Jackson does things his own way and only takes jobs with teams loaded with stars and looking for leadership. Los Angeles is like Chicago, where he won too. This coach does not take jobs in places like Washington, Orlando or Cleveland.
In the angst of the moment, when Lakers basketball had become “slowtime-not-showtime,” should the Lakers go outside the box and hire a dynamic personality like Mike D’Antoni, who had great success rebuilding the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks before losing both those jobs because of meddling owners and eroding rosters? He is a players’ coach. All show and let’s go.
There is an old-war horse out there too — legendary Jerry Sloan, who built a Hall of Fame career with his old-school, demand-you-work-hard style with the Utah Jazz. At least with Sloan, you always know who is boss.
One thing is for sure — whoever comes in to coach will let the greyhounds run. No more of this “Princeton” offense — walk the ball up the floor, stand around, miss shots and retreat and get beat on the defensive end.
Behind the curtain there are so many questions about this Lakers franchise.
Please tell me Jim Buss, the son of the legendary owner, knows what he’s doing. He hired Mike Brown after the deposed Cavaliers coach wowed him in a personal interview. General Manager Mitch Kupchak was part of the decision-making team, but most think Jim told his father, the iconic owner, Jerry Buss, this was the right guy. Does Jim know what he is doing?
And if Jim is the power broker, why was Kupchak the only one at the Lakers press conference, answering questions, taking the hits, shots, bows and arrows? Jim was nowhere to be seen nor heard.
And the decision to oust Brown came just 48 hours after Jim told ESPN.com that Mike Brown was the man in charge, even with the hideous Lakers loss at Utah fresh in everyone’s mind. Maybe Jerry came to the realization, just because Jim was given the keys to the car, does not mean he cannot drive it into a ditch.
And someone should also question whether a relinking with Phil Jackson actually works. In some quarters, NBA people say Jackson left because he could no longer tolerate all-things Jim Buss, with his basketball opinions and limited basketball knowledge. It is indeed a weird mix in L.A. too, because the legendary coach has had an ongoing relationship with Jeanie Buss, sister to Jim. Some story, huh?
Of course the players are all in the mix with this chaos, too. Last year Ron Artest, now listed on your score sheet as Metta World Peace, went haywire over Mike Brown’s 3 ½-hour practices and his long film sessions. World Peace called him the Lakers “Video Coach.” Nice respect.
And there was the “dagger-in-the eye” glare and stare from Kobe Bryant in the midst of the Utah atrocity. And rumbling everywhere, there was a growing revolt in this current Lakers locker room.
Money can buy you cars, houses, jewelry and women, but it does not guarantee team chemistry, caring and victories.
Of course, few forget the Andrew Bynum tirades over cheap shot fouls and ejections in the playoffs, storming by Brown on the bench, as if he was the water boy, not the coach he was supposed to answer to. Bynum, a Jim Buss draft pick, is now in Philadelphia.
And if a player mutiny was part of this equation, we must not forget “Superman” Dwight Howard, who must fit and succeed in this mess, for he can walk away as a free agent at the end of the season.
And wouldn’t that be a Hollywood moment to remember too? Howard might be the best big man in the league, but he has a reputation for being a coach killer. See how it all ended in Orlando last spring and how this just ended for Mike Brown.
Poor Steve Nash, the quiet leader, who exited Phoenix and thought he’d found a panacea in purple and gold. He is hurt and has seen his head coach ousted already, and looked like a square peg in the round hole in this Princeton package.
He and D’Antoni could make magic. Kobe and Dwight could recreate the magic if it was Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
In the NBA, this stuff happens. The star players run the game, dictate rules and regulations and, with rare exception, will not have $2 million coaches telling $15 million players how to act and play, unless you are a god like Gregg Popovich in San Antonio or a Pat Riley in Miami.
Looking forward to the next chapter in this book, with another five months of this on-stage production still be played out.
It’s the NBA. It’s Hollywood. It’s the Lakers.
Which coach do you think will save the Lakers’ season? Which is the best fit for now or the long haul? Tell me below in the comments section, Southwest Riverside: