by Kenneth Miller
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel
New Cleveland Coach Says L.A. Not Fair
Mike Brown was sitting at the top of the Redondo Union High School gymnasium while his older son Elijah Brown was playing in a local high school all-star basketball game, but the former Lakers coach will soon be sitting front row as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers again. Brown has been keeping a low profile since being canned by the Lakers after just five games into the season, but on April 20 following his son’s game, he managed to speak openly and candid about his one plus season with the Lakers. Flashing his signature smile, Brown said that he didn’t feel the Lakers organization was in full support of him during his reign.
When told that I didn’t think the Lakers would hire a Black coach and was surprised to see that he accepted the job, Brown responded: “I kind of thought about that. I felt they were going to pull out all of the stops to doing everything to win a championship, but that was not the case.” During his first season, the strike-shortened season of 2010-2011, Brown didn’t have the benefit of training camp with a roster that included Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom. Then one day in December, he was called into general manager Mitch Kupchak’s office.
“So, I go up there and he tells me that we just traded Lamar Odom! My mouth just dropped. He explained to me that it was for salary cap reasons, but nothing that he did after that justified anything to do with the salary cap,” Brown said.
Brown said that he wasn’t even consulted or asked what he thought before the trade went down.
“I mean, how can I not be told in advance of losing one of my primary pieces, a guy who was ‘Sixth Man of the Year?’” Then in March, the Lakers traded Fisher to Houston for Jordan Hill. Brown went on to lead the Lakers to the Pacific Division championship with a 41-25 record before being swept in the Western Conference semifinals by eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. He was under the impression that with a full off-season and a complete training camp, the addition of key acquisitions the Lakers would furnish him with a roster that could compete for an NBA championship.
The Lakers traded away young star center Andrew Bynum and got a bigger star in Dwight Howard, then added Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Teams usually don’t put much stock into the preseason, but after the Lakers went winless, the pressure mounted on Brown. Then the team under performed in the first five games of the season, but rarely if ever does a team terminate its coach so early in the campaign. White coaches Mike Dunlap lasted the season after only winning 11 games with Charlotte.
Dunlap was an assistant at St. John’s University and had no head coaching experience before he was hired. Lawrence Frank won just 29 games in Detroit, but lasted the season before he was fired. Brown’s former player LeBron James was miffed at the Lakers firing, but Mike Brown exited with class. “Yea, it was rather shocking. I mean, I take a team without a training camp into the second round of the playoffs and then I’m gone.”
The Lakers have lost their cornerstone Bryant for the remainder of the playoffs and barely go in as a seventh seed playing sudden death the final weeks of the season. Bryant logged more minutes than he has since his prime and went down with a torn Achilles tendon ruining any chance of the Lakers competing for the title under Brown’s replacement Mike D’Antoni. “Could you imagine what they would have said if I was the coach with Kobe playing all of those minutes?” We will never know, but you can just imagine…