The Los Angeles Lakers wasted little time in finding a replacement for now-retired head coach Phil Jackson. Numerous media outlets reported May 25 that former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown will replace Jackson.
According to the reports, Brown was on the verge of signing a four-year, $18 million contract with Los Angeles. A deal was expected to be in place in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Late on May 25, the team released a statement saying that Brown had not been hired yet.
"In response to rampant speculation and reports about our head coaching position and Mike Brown, we've met with Mike and are very impressed with him. In addition, we have an outline for an agreement in place and hope to sign a contract within the next few days."
Brown, 41, coached the Cavaliers from 2006 to 2010 and guided them to the NBA Finals in his second season. He was named the NBA's Coach of the Year in 2009 but parted ways with the team in the early summer of 2010, shortly before LeBron James headed to Miami.
Brown fits some of the parameters laid out by the Lakers following their second-round loss to the Mavericks in the playoffs. The team plans to reduce its coaching salary after paying Phil Jackson more than $10 million over the past two seasons. Owner Jerry Buss has stated that he's like to stay under $5 million per season for the next coach, which wouldn't be an issue with Brown.
The Lakers are also on the lookout for defense-minded coach. Kobe Bryant said recently he hoped the Lakers would move forward with a coach who excels at teaching defense, and Brown fits the bill. He's well respected for his defensive approach to the game, an area where the Lakers struggled throughout the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Brown has been criticized in the past for his lack of creativity on offense, but the Lakers are already loaded with an array of weapons talented enough to score in any system.
Others in consideration for the Lakers job were former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman and Lakers assistant Brian Shaw. Adelman was considered the favorite for the position because of his experience in working with veterans, but Brown reportedly moved to the top of the list following a strong interview.
The Lakers flexed their muscles after the All-Star break and made everyone believe that they could roll toward another NBA title. They went 17-1, generating talk about getting the best record in league history after the All-Star Game. The best victory in that run was March 6 at San Antonio, which was dominating the Western Conference at the time. The Lakers blitzed the Spurs, 34-13, in the first quarter and led by 32 points in the third quarter en route to a 99-83 victory. The Lakers had their best formula working: Kobe Bryant (26 points) and Pau Gasol (21) dominating on offense with Andrew Bynum (17 rebounds) dominating on defense.
The Lakers' struggles in the postseason were foretold by the struggles that started late in the regular season. Their nine-game winning streak ended with a 95-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. The Lakers had won two days earlier in Utah, overcoming their largest road deficit since 2004, but as would become evident later, the team seemed spent by the post-All-Star break effort of going 17-1. The Lakers followed up the loss to Denver with another home loss two days later to Utah, which snapped the Jazz's 17-game losing streak at Staples Center (regular season and postseason).
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