Mike Brown, Kobe Bryant meet
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers introduced Mike Brown as their new coach Tuesday, but Brown's first order of business, before even officially signing his contract with the team, was to meet with Kobe Bryant.
Brown arrived in Los Angeles on Monday and met with Bryant in person Tuesday morning near Bryant's home in Orange County and had exchanged text messages and phone calls with both Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, during the weekend. Brown said he wanted to meet with Bryant face to face before the former league MVP left for a trip to Europe this week.
"Kobe and I talked about a lot of things," Brown said. "We talked about family. We talked about last year, the team. He wanted to know what I had in store, in mind, going forward on both sides of the ball and what my beliefs are. I thought that the meeting in person as well as the conversations on the phone went very well."
Brown later emphasized Bryant's continued importance to the Lakers' future and said the 16-year veteran is "on board" with his vision.
"This is still his team," Brown said. "Kobe is Kobe. He's got five titles, he's one of the greatest ever and his role will not change. We'll make sure that he'll have the ball in the sweet spots that he likes to have it in."
The Cleveland Cavaliers fired Brown last year before LeBron James packed his bags for Miami, and he had been working as an NBA analyst for ESPN. Brown eluded a question about moving from one superstar in James in Cleveland to working with Bryant in Los Angeles.
"They're two different people," Brown said. "I'm not here to compare and contrast the two. I'm all about the Lakers and purple and gold now."
Taking over for the most succesful championship-winning coach in NBA history, Brown wanted to make one thing clear: He is different than Phil Jackson and he's just fine with that.
"I have great respect for Phil Jackson and all of his accomplishments," Brown said near the start of his news conference, shortly after officially signing a four-year contract worth a reported $18.25 million. "I'm not sure what size shoe he wears, but I'm not here to fill his shoes. I'm here to help this team and this organization carve our own path to success."
Added Brown: "In terms of replacing a legend in Phil, I'm not him, I'm not going to be able to be him. I got to be who I am and I'm confident, secure and happy with that."
Brown, 41, with zero rings to his credit from his five-year run on the sideline with the Cavs from 2005 to 2010, made sure not to disparage the 65-year-old Jackson, who won 11 championships with Chicago and Los Angeles before retiring this spring.
But he did make a point to establish that he will be his own man in taking over as the 22nd coach in franchise history.
First of all, the Lakers will not be running the triangle offense exclusively next season, although some aspects of it will remain.
"A lot of teams run bits and pieces of the triangle offense," Brown said. "It's just basketball, it's spacing, it's reads and so on and so forth ... We're not going to run the triangle offense, but we will have bits and pieces of it that will be incorporated in."
And there's another way Brown says he will operate in a drastically different way than Jackson.
"I may burn a timeout just to teach," Brown said, highlighting a big change from Jackson, who would often let his teams play through their struggles.
That's not to say Brown hasn't experienced success of his own. He led Cleveland to the 2007 NBA Finals and went 272-138 with the Cavaliers, becoming the most successful coach in franchise history while compiling the league's best regular-season record in each of his final two seasons there. His .663 regular-season winning percentage is the fifth-best in NBA history (minimum 400 games).
Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss was on hand for the announcement, along with his son Jim Buss, the team's vice president of player personnel; Buss' two younger sons Jesse and Joey; general manager Mitch Kupchak; and Lakers forward Matt Barnes.
Kupchak began the news conference by detailing the Lakers' coaching search, revealing the team interviewed longtime assistant coach Brian Shaw and another candidate he failed to identify (former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman, according to multiple sources) before settling on Brown.
"When we started the process, I did not think he would be the man," Jerry Buss said. "Then when he started talking to us and said how he would handle this team, he was very prepared. He had page after page on each individual player on our roster. He knew that roster from top to bottom. He was really prepared. Very impressive."
Kupchak also explained why Brown was selected in a relatively short time frame, citing the other coaching vacancies around the league.
"Certainly the process could have gone on for another two or three weeks, but if you find your guy, and we all agreed on him being our guy, we made a decision to move quickly," Kupchak said.
With the league's owners and players association in the midst of negotiations to settle upon a new collective bargaining agreement before the current CBA expires on June 30, Brown says he has "hit the ground running" and has been "proactive" in establishing communication with his new players before a lockout would restrict him from any contact with them.
Other than Bryant, Brown said he has also spoken "at length" with guard Derek Fisher (as well as Fisher's wife, Candace) and has had conversations with Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum's mother, because Bynum was in England when he called the center's house.
Barnes was the only player on the team's roster to attend the news conference, but several players were unavailable because they were out of town on vacation, according to a Lakers spokesman.
"I just wanted to let him know he has my complete support," Barnes said. "I'm sure he the rest of the guys' support."
Speaking from a dais set up in the Lakers' practice gym with championship banners lining the walls and a row of 10 Larry O'Brien trophies visible from the window of an office overlooking the court, Brown proclaimed his expectation to add to that collection.
"Every organization strives to have sustained success," Brown said. "The Lakers are one of the rare few in all of sports, not just basketball, all of sports that have attained that level. My goal is to continue to the course, is to continue to help build upon a very strong championship foundation that has been laid here already.
"We don't play for second here, it's as simple as that."
Brown echoed Jerry Buss' claim that the Lakers, as currently constructed, are capable of winning a championship next season without any major changes.
"I'm excited about this roster, I still believe that this core group of guys can go get it done and now it's up to us to go do it," Brown said.
Brown laid out his three keys on defense and offense he intends the Lakers to adopt for next season. Defensively, he said he will employ the same system he ran in Cleveland, predicated on shrinking the floor, not giving up drives to the middle of the floor and multiple efforts on the same defensive possession, finishing every shot with a contest.
Offensively, he plans for the Lakers to "attack the clock" by advancing the ball past midcourt in the first three to four seconds of the shot clock, to use ball reversals to set up "paint touches" and also to employ drive and kick and inside-out opportunities with proper spacing.
Trying to implement a new system to a group of players that averaged 59 wins the past four seasons, including three trips to the Finals and two championships, could prove difficult, but Brown promised consequences if players do not follow the new regime.
"I got to preach it, I got to talk it, I got to teach it," Brown said. "In time, if they don't buy in right away or they don't buy in the first week, they will. If they don't, then there's going to be a problem because I'm going to hold everybody accountable."
Brown's crew of assistant coaches has yet to be filled out, but he said he submitted a list to Kupchak. He also acknowledged that Ettore Messina, a well-regarded pro coach in Europe, could be on his staff. Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person, Dallas special assistant Tim Grgurich, New Orleans assistant Mike Malone and Minnesota assistant J.B. Bickerstaff are among the other names being considered, according to multiple sources.
"Right now, there's nobody that's ruled out," Brown said of the pool of assistants he's considering.
Brown summed up his goals for the job with somewhat of a mission statement before accepting questions from the media on hand.
"I'll define the culture, I'll define roles and I'll hold people accountable," Brown said. "Part of the culture and the makeup of the culture, will be one of trust, communication, defense, a no-excuses mentality, a family environment and a determined work ethic. I'm very excited to be here in L.A. working with these players and helping them build upon past successes that they've already had. Now I'm ready to get to work."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.