- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
LOS ANGELES -- It took the Los Angeles Lakers just more than two weeks to find Phil Jackson's replacement in coach Mike Brown.
More than a month later the team is officially finalizing Brown's coaching staff.
John Kuester is Brown's first official bench partner in L.A. The former Detroit Pistons head coach has been hired as an assistant coach for the Lakers, the team announced Wednesday.
"I'm extremely excited to have John join the team as a member of my coaching staff," Brown said in a statement. "Having previously worked together in Cleveland, I know what assets he will bring to the team. His ability to effectively communicate with the players while teaching them valuable skills on both ends of the court is a quality that I respect and value. I look forward to working with him again."
Kuester, 56, compiled a 57-107 record with the Pistons the past two seasons before being fired earlier this month. Kuester's Pistons failed to make the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since missing the playoffs three straight times from 1993-95.
He endured an especially difficult season last year that nearly went off the rails when seven Pistons players missed all or part of a February shootaround in Philadelphia as a protest against the coach. Also, reports surfaced late in the season that some players privately nicknamed Kuester "Sean Penn," referencing Penn's role as a death row inmate in "Dead Man Walking."
Prior to his stint in Detroit, Kuester spent 14 years as an assistant coach in the NBA, working for six different franchises (Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Jersey, Orlando and Cleveland). He and Brown worked together in Cleveland for two seasons during which the Cavaliers posted a 111-53 record and made an Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2009.
Kuester was responsible for running the Cavs offense and will play a pivotal role in helping the Lakers transition away from Jackson's triangle scheme and into Brown's more dribble-penetration style of play.
Other than working with Brown, Kuester also shares ties with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak from their collegiate days at North Carolina under legendary Tar Heels coach Dean Smith. Kuester played point guard alongside Kupchak, who played in the frontcourt.
"I'm extremely excited to be working with Mike Brown, as well as to have the opportunity to work with the Lakers, one of the premier organizations in the NBA," Kuester said in a statement.
Kuester will serve as Brown's top assistant. Terms of his contract were not disclosed.
According to sources close to the team, Brown's staff will be rounded out by Chuck Person, a holdover from Jackson's staff; longtime NBA assistant and recently fired Utah Utes head coach Jim Boylen; and former Philadelphia Sixers player development coach Quin Snyder.
ESPN the Magazine's Ric Bucher reported that respected Italian coach Ettore Messina was hired by Brown in a consulting capacity as well.
Kupchak recently told Lakers.com that Brown was contacted by an estimated 100 coaches hoping to be hired for three to four positions. Out of those candidates, Brown told reporters on the night of last week's NBA draft that he interviewed only "four or five" people.
At least one member of Brown's incoming staff is still finalizing his contract with the team, although any issues are expected to be resolved Thursday. The contracts belonging to Jackson's assistant coaching staff -- Person, Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and special assistants Craig Hodges and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- expire on June 30.
The Lakers could officially announce the rest of the coaching staff as soon as July 1, according to a source.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi was used in this report.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne