The news came quickly and was unexpected to be sure. Mike Brown has been fired and his replacement will be found over the coming days, seemingly from outside the current coaching staff.
While I’m conflicted about making an in-season change, I do not think this is an overreaction. There have been circumstances that have limited Brown’s success, but this team was underperforming even when accounting for those issues. Brown has shown a rigidity in his lineup choices and has played his stars heavy minutes in the pursuit of wins. Those tactics haven’t born fruit and, as Mitch Kupchak said, judgement comes on wins and losses.
It’s more than the record, however. There simply hasn’t been progress with this team. A crushing win over the Pistons that was fueled by energy and clean execution reverted back to mistake riddled basketball in Utah just two nights later. His rotations moved towards bigger and slower when quicker and smaller are ruling the league. The players were starting to look like ones that lacked belief they could win games once they got behind and considering the talent on this roster that’s a bit shocking.
But, as I said, I’m conflicted with this move even if I understand it to be the correct one. In-season changes are always difficult and will only lead to more adjusting in what is already a topsy-turvy beginning to the campaign. It’s very likely this team sees several mini-peaks and valleys over the coming weeks as energy is poured into games only to have the uncertainty of change once again take hold. Once familiarity is established we should see better results but that was the same perspective from months ago.
Patience will again be key but with the season in full swing that will be harder than ever. We don’t yet even know who the replacement will be so we can’t even begin to speculate how long an adjustment period will be or how capable this group is to adapting to new schemes, personalities, and styles.
I do feel for Brown, however. Many speak of him as some awful coach but he’s been put into some of the most extreme coaching circumstances imaginable and been asked to thrive at the highest level.
Consider the following: he replaced Phil Jackson, had a major trade vetoed, had his best bench player traded, dealt with a lockout that cut training camp down to nothing and shortened time between games for practices, he had a major leader traded at the deadline last year, dealt with injuries to his best players, had a new roster built before his second season, had his brand new franchise player arrive injured and unable to play in games, had his prize point guard break a bone in his leg, and dealt with all of it through evolving offensive systems where continuity and chemistry matter more than in most systems.
Some of these things he brought on himself. Not all of them, however.
I often said that I don’t envy Brown and the issues he’s faced but that I also know that this is the job he signed up for. He took the Lakers’ coaching job and all the inherent drama and surplus of expectations that come with that. Sometimes it’s not fair but life isn’t, is it?
I do wish Brown luck down the road. His failings with the Lakers will surely further shape the perception of who he is as a head coach in this league. They’ll see the underperformance of his team, the lack of adjustments, the suspect offensive acumen and will judge him on them. Some of that is certainly fair. But some of that can not be separated from circumstances and it seems doubtful that’s the perspective people will take.
That said, what’s done is done. The Lakers are moving on and looking for the person they think can lead this team to where they want to go. Hopefully, this time they find him.