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Lakers management learns from the past

11/10/2012

LOS ANGELES -- Thirty-one years ago this month, the Los Angeles Lakers fired Paul Westhead after just 11 games and one infamous trade demand from Magic Johnson following a game in Utah.

Friday they fired Mike Brown just five games into his second season after one infamous "death stare" from Kobe Bryant during a game in Utah. Two exceptionally quick hooks that are so eerily similar it's hard to believe they are simply coincidental.

As it turns out, they aren't. According to multiple Lakers sources, Lakers owner Jerry Buss learned a lesson from his experience with Westhead that he, his son Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak remembered this week when they made the decision to to fire Brown.

"When you're ready to fire someone, don't wait," one source said.

The Lakers had actually decided to fire Westhead two games earlier, sources said, before they played the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 15, 1981, but they didn't do it right away. When the team beat both the Pacers and the Utah Jazz three nights later, things got awkward. The team's issues hadn't changed -- Johnson was unhappy with the way he was being used in Westhead's offense -- but now after losing four of their first six games, the Lakers had rattled off four straight wins. When Johnson asked to be traded following the Jazz game, it created the perception he forced Jerry Buss' hand when in actuality the decision to fire Westhead had been made several days earlier.

That experience was brought up several times in the Lakers' decision-making process this week. Kupchak was a player on that Lakers team and remembered it well. As ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported early Friday morning, Lakers management had initially decided to evaluate team and Brown during this six-game homestand. But the more they thought about it, sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com Friday night, the more they realized there was a lesson to be learned from their own history.