Lakers’ hiring of Mike Brown is the wrong move

One year ago Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Mike Brown because they didn’t think he was good enough to coach LeBron James.

The Lakers celebrated that anniversary by hiring him to coach Kobe Bryant.

When contacted by The Times’ Broderick Turner about this development Wednesday afternoon, Bryant refused to comment

I’ve got a few, the first being, “What the …?”


When I heard this week that the Lakers were going to offer basketball’s most celebrated and coveted coaching job to a guy named Brown, my first thought was Larry Brown. My second thought was Hubie Brown.

Not only did Mike Brown not seem to be the best available candidate, he didn’t even seem to be the best available Brown.

Yet here he is, agreeing to a contract Wednesday that featured four years, about $18 million and Jimmy Buss’ fingerprints. The owner’s son, on the verge of inheriting the throne from his aging pops, was obviously trying to make a big splash in casting the deciding vote for this strange and unusual hire. And it worked, because today we’re all feeling a little bit wet.

In other words, if it walks like a Del Harris and talks like a Rudy Tomjanovich, Lakers fans better duck. Following Phil Jackson probably will be a no-win situation for anyone, but, in big situations, Mike Brown has already distinctly not won.

What can Brown do for you? Hopefully more than he did in Cleveland.

He guided James and the Cavaliers to consecutive league-best records in 2009 and 2010. But he is best known for being badly outcoached in both postseasons as the Cavaliers failed to take the top seeding into the Finals, last season losing in the conference semifinals to a Boston team that made them quit.

He also led the Cavaliers to a surprise appearance in the Finals in 2007. But he is best known for getting schooled by his former mentor Gregg Popovich in a four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs.

Yes, Brown is a defensive schemer who helped teach James the sort of stopper skills that he has successfully used this postseason for the Miami Heat.


“He definitely helped me to become who I am today,” James told reporters Wednesday.

But Brown is also the guy who feuded with James about the offense and was openly questioned by James about substitutions and, in the end, was dumped by the Cavaliers in an apparent attempt to keep James from bolting town.

“I was surprised to see Mike Brown’s name [as Lakers coach],” acknowledged James, later adding. “I was more surprised like, ‘Wow.’ I’m happy for him.”

James says wow, while Bryant is surely saying, how?


How does an organization that has climbed on Bryant’s back for parts of five championships shove him into a dark corner while searching for his next head coach? Bryant wasn’t consulted on this and, if he had been, he would have given them names such as Brian Shaw, Rick Adelman or Jeff Van Gundy.

Bryant’s refusal to comment says volumes about his feeling on this hire. The actual hire says volumes about Jimmy Buss’ feelings about Bryant’s future.

I think Bryant has another two good years remaining as the Lakers’ leader, two years that could result in at least one more championship if he stays focused and the roster around him is upgraded. By not taking Bryant’s advice about the guy who will control those next two seasons, Jimmy Buss might feel different.

It will hard for Bryant to initially view Brown as anything other than LeBron’s leftovers, and can you blame him? The most compelling part about Brown’s halftime interview on ESPN on Wednesday night was the revelation that he had been hired as Lakers coach without ever actually speaking to Bryant.


“Kobe and I have exchanged texts,” he said.

How warm and fuzzy. I can’t wait for that first benching. Jimmy Buss should know that in the NBA, even $18 million can’t buy credibility.

In Buss’ first publicized move as the Lakers’ prince, he insisted on drafting Andrew Bynum, and then refused to trade him for another scorer this winter in a move that eventually led to the Lakers being steamrolled by the Dallas Mavericks.

This second move is even riskier. If Brown doesn’t work, the Bryant era could end amid the sort of steaming rubble that could take years to clear. If Brown doesn’t work, the Lakers could not only lose their place among the NBA hierarchy, but also find themselves in a struggle for the local buzz with the surging Clippers, the newly purchased Dodgers and perhaps even the incoming NFL.


The next few years represent an important bridge into a new Lakers era. This hiring has left that bridge unnecessarily rickety and swaying.

Mike Brown is reportedly a great guy, and he is probably a great defensive basketball coach, but for a franchise whose successful leaders have all possessed pedigree and star power and big-game savvy, he doesn’t seem to be a great fit.