Lakers’ ex-coach Mike Brown has lost a job but not his joy

Mike Brown is no longer an NBA coach, but he's staying close to the court at Santa Ana Mater Dei where his son plays basketball.
(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)
Share via

Mike Brown picks up the phone and laughs.

“How are you DOING?” he asks happily Wednesday, as if there’s nothing in his life that would hint at loss of job, loss of camaraderie, loss of Lakers.

The franchise’s 22nd coach seemed perfectly fine with what has happened in his life since Nov. 9, the day he arrived at the office, was pulled out of a meeting with assistant coaches and told by General Manager Mitch Kupchak he no longer worked for the Lakers.

They were 1-4 at the time. Brown was surely surprised, though he tried not to sound like it in his first interview since the firing.

“I tell you what, I had a lot of really nice phone calls from around the league that day,” Brown told The Times. “Front-office people, other coaches, stuff like that. It always helps when your peers call and help you get through a time like this.”

Does Brown miss it? Of course he does. But maybe not as much as expected. It helps that he’s still going to earn $10 million. He had another full year on his Lakers contract after this one and a partial guarantee in 2014-15.

He’s not hurting for money. And he’s not dying to watch every Lakers game.

“I still have a fondness for all the guys on the team. I really enjoyed working with all of them,” Brown said. “The coaching staff was unbelievable, in my opinion. I hope they win.

“In terms of watching them, it does not intrigue me enough to watch them. I guess I just don’t feel like I have a need to do it. But I hope they do well because these are people I work with and care about. I learned so much from working with Kobe [Bryant] and I hope he learned something working with me.”

Brown, 42, declined to comment specifically on the Lakers’ decision to hire Mike D’Antoni to replace him, not to mention their brief flirtation with Phil Jackson. Nor did he offer any public commentary on their continued struggles since he was fired.

He has immersed himself in another team. Its colors are red and white.

Brown just got back from a tournament in Chicago and is heading to another one in Nevada. It’s all about Mater Dei High for him these days.

His son Elijah is a senior on the boys’ basketball team for the private school in Santa Ana.

“I’ll be in Las Vegas for like six days, for five games,” he says proudly about the upcoming tournament.

Brown was known as a hard worker, so much so that Lakers players sometimes cynically referred to him as “All Day Every Day.” His schedule these days still involves a lot of basketball.

“I go to Mater Dei practices and Mater Dei games. I’ve literally gone to every practice. The first time I was there, an assistant coach presented me with my own bag of gear,” he said.

“I’ve got all the Lakers gear I wore every day and now I’ve got all the Mater Dei gear. Hooded sweat shirts, collared shirts, T-shirts. Everything.”

He’s not the only noticeable father at their games. Former Clippers forward Michael Cage is a Mater Dei assistant coach because his son is on the team, and former Dodgers outfielder Darryl Strawberry’s son is the Monarchs’ starting point guard.

“All three of us were following the team around in Chicago,” Brown said.

He has embraced the chance to be with his son, who has received a “ton of mid-major offers” for college, Brown said, and taken an official visit to St. Mary’s. Brown will be there when his son goes to Butler on another official visit.

The Lakers? Who?

“I’m spending time with my family. It’s my oldest boy’s senior year. What other time would you want to be able to hang with them?” Brown said.

The Lakers were 42-29 in a little more than one season with Brown. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 272-138 in five seasons under him. He didn’t seem burned out by two high-profile firings in a 30-month span. When he returns to the NBA, it’ll be on his terms.

“I think I will eventually coach again, but I don’t know when. I don’t know if it will be next year, the following year,” he said. “The reality is I have this year plus two more on my contract, so I don’t necessarily need to be in a rush. I’m just going to keep enjoying the family and life and figure out what’s the next step in this whole thing as time goes on. Right now there has not been any thought to me coaching at all.”

One team Brown will not coach is Mater Dei.

“I know how hard it is at any level. I don’t want the coaches to feel like I’m second-guessing anything they’re doing,” he said. “Really, I just want to be a dad.”

Life has resumed for Brown, Lakers or no Lakers.

“I just look at it this way — it’s part of the business,” he said. “I do appreciate the opportunity the Buss family and Mitch gave me. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I just kind of move forward. It’s as simple as that.”