Firing Lakers Phil up rumor mill

Firing Lakers Phil up rumor mill
November 10, 2012, 11:45 am
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That was quick and yet long overdue.

The Los Angeles Lakers have fired head coach Mike Brown just five games into his second season. In the eyes of some the dismissal is deemed panicky and a direct result of a 1-4 start which included blowout losses, obvious dysfunction and one major league death stare.

There are elements of truth to that take, but realistically this move corrects a botched hire following Phil Jackson's retirement. What may become clear in the coming days is the firing occurred because there are "strong" indications the Zen Master is coming back for more.

Whether the 11-time NBA champion coach returns to work the sideline, pull the strings from a management level or sticks to fly fishing in Montana, the Lakers rightly moved on from Brown (Though, let's get real; do we believe the Buss family made this decision without knowing at least the basic framework of Plan B? And yes, Jackson and Jeanie Buss are still a thing. So there is that).

The Lakers job requires leadership, respect and perhaps most of all charisma of the highest order. Since 1981, only three men have coached the purple and gold crew for more than two seasons. That distinction is all that connect the Del Harris era to the massively successful ones directed by Jackson and Pat Riley.

Brown's reputation is that of a defensive-oriented coach, one he earned during previous head coaching stint with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and while rising through the assistant coaching ranks. Nothing wrong with that, but the Lakers are Showtime, baby. That's not to say stopping the other team from scoring isn't crucial, but that's not what the many time of NBA champions have built their brand on. Personality-wise, Brown's teaching vibe would be better served working with a young roster, not starry veterans. Let's also not forget that as part of their attempt to keep a then free agent James, the Cavaliers canned Brown despite an NBA Finals appearance on his recent resume.

For my basketball sensibilities, the truly egregious aspect of this season's squad was adding Steve Nash while at the same time installing the Princeton offense. The "Princeton" design typically takes the ball out of a point guard's hands and turns the decision-making over to the wings players and high post centers. If you want that, fine. Just don't acquire the ultimate pass-first (and aging) point guard who plays defense...oh, who we are kidding...who doesn't play defense.

Maybe acquiring Nash wasn't Brown's call, but he added ex-Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, a Princeton offensive guru, to his staff. Who knows, maybe that wasn't Brown's call either. It doesn't really matter, just as it doesn't really matter that by the numbers the Lakers lacking defense is more to blame than their scoring ways. This isn't about numbers, but rather soul.

It's also true that Jackson's famed Triangle Offense is a re-branded version of the Princeton Offense. The secret to his success in Chicago and Los Angeles - beyond the superstars on his side - was his managing of men more than his X's and O's.

Whether Jackson returns - according to CSN's Ric Bucher it may be as coach or in an advisor with the team bringing back former assistant Brian Shaw as the head coach - at least the Lakers swiftly moved past any feeling of pride.. That's a wise call seeing as Dwight Howard might not be with the team past this season, Nash the year after and Kobe's best days are nearing an end.

Bernie Bickerstaff, another former Washington coach and an assistant when current Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak played for the Bullets, took over the job for at least one game and on Friday the Lakers romped Golden State. How long the coaching title, interim or otherwise, remains his is likely a very short-term conundrum. Even if Jackson stays away, there are flashier hires to make. Mike D'Antoni famously worked with Nash in Phoenix and was idolized by young Bryant in Italy. Ex-Utah coach Jerry Sloan brings instant credibility. Many believe Shaw should have been the call over Brown in the first place.

For a firing like this to occur so quickly, there must be a plan in place. There also may have been a discussion with Bryant and perhaps the other All-Stars. In the case of the Black Mamba giving his blessing, doubt that was an issue.