Lakers move quickly to get Mike Brown
In a surprising and quick move, the Lakers ended their search for a head coach Wednesday by agreeing to hire former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.
The decision to hire Brown, 41, to replace Phil Jackson was made mostly by Jim Buss, the team’s executive vice president of player personnel who is the son of owner Jerry Buss, according to several NBA executives not authorized to speak publicly.
The Lakers released a statement Wednesday saying they have met with Brown and are “impressed by him,” that an agreement is “in place,” but he hasn’t signed a contract yet.
As The Times reported Tuesday night, Brown is expected to sign a deal worth about $4.5 million a season over four years for a total of about $18 million. The last year is a team option, which means Brown would get paid $2.5 million of his salary if he is not retained.
Brown posted a 272-138 record in five seasons with the Cavaliers before he was fired after the 2010 season.
“I’m here to continue to try to help this organization carve a championship path that’s already been laid,” Brown said Wednesday on ESPN during halftime of the Dallas Mavericks-Oklahoma City Thunder game.
“I know I’m not going to fill [Jackson’s] shoes…But I am excited to help carve my own path with this team going forward,” Brown said. He worked this season as an ESPN analyst.
Derek Fisher, the Lakers’ veteran point guard, in a Twitter message said: “Will miss Phil but excited to start a new chapter under Mike Brown. Looking forward to a different style and energy!!”
The decision to hire Brown caught many by surprise, even some in the Lakers’ front office who anticipated a coaching change to take place near mid-June.
Brown may not sign his deal until early next week because there are still details to be worked out, possibly including how much he would earn if a lockout occurs after the league’s labor contract expires June 30.
Brown could get up to 50% of his yearly salary while the lockout is in place, according to NBA executives familiar with the negotiations. However, the Lakers probably would like to negotiate that package down to $1 million, the executives said.
The Lakers’ coaching search began May 17 when Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak finally had their season-ending meeting.
Last Saturday, Brown met with Jim Buss in Minneapolis while Buss was at an NBA predraft camp, according to league executives.
Brown was very prepared and wooed Buss with his presentation about defensive schemes. Brown also talked about his experience working with a superstar in Cleveland in LeBron James, and how he would coexist with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
Buss returned home Tuesday night around 7:30, and about two hours later the framework of a deal was in place, the executives said.
Brown was also in the running for the head coaching job with Golden State. However, Buss did not want to lose Brown to the Warriors.
Other likely candidates for the Lakers coaching job were Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy, Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw and Jeff Van Gundy. But Adelman, Dunleavy and Van Gundy never got an interview with the Lakers, according to various NBA officials.
Adelman had some support from Jerry Buss, but Jim’s decision carried the day.
“What you can expect from a Coach Brown team is a family atmosphere, a defensive-minded team,” Brown said on ESPN. “I want a hard-working team, but yet still I want a team-first team.”
Apparently the Buss family followed through on Jerry Buss’ declaration not to “consult the players on these matters,” as he said in a Tuesday radio interview.
People familiar with Bryant’s thinking said the All-Star guard was digesting the coaching decision. When reached Wednesday by The Times about the Brown hire, Bryant had no comment.
Earlier this month Bryant said he would be comfortable with Shaw as head coach because of Shaw’s overall knowledge of the franchise, the triangle offense and, of course, the players.
“Kobe is a Hall of Famer. We all know that. We all know the amount of rings that he has and to me that’s special and that just adds to the chemistry when you’re trying to forge and go after another one,” Brown said on ESPN.
One of Brown’s first moves will be to assemble a coaching staff.
It was unclear if any of Jackson’s former assistants would be retained, though Chuck Person has the best chance among a group including Shaw, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons. Cleamons probably will interview with the Phoenix Suns to become that team’s defensive coordinator, an NBA executive said Wednesday.
The Lakers liked Shaw and believed he would be an NBA head coach one day but didn’t think he was the right fit for them. The Lakers opted for a new voice in hopes of shaking up their veteran team. They also liked that Brown had prior experience as a head coach, unlike Shaw, according to NBA officials.
Brown’s past assistant coaches have included Michael Malone, who spent last season with the New Orleans Hornets, and Melvin Hunt, who was with Denver last season and served briefly as an assistant for the Lakers during Rudy Tomjanovich’s short-lived tenure in 2004-05.
Adelman, who turns 65 in a few weeks, recently moved all of his belongings from Houston, where he coached the last four seasons, to his home in Oregon. He wasn’t certain he wanted to return to the grind of an NBA season, much less move again, according to a person familiar with Adelman’s thinking.
Times staff writer Mark Heisler contributed to this report.
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