Brown goes to battle with new lieutenants
OCT 01, 2012 9:10p ET
So while General Manager Mitch Kupchak retooled the roster, adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to a starting lineup that already boasted multiple-time champions Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Brown did the same with his coaching staff.
Ettore Messina, whom Brown referred to as "truly one of the great basketball minds in the history of the sport" returned to CSKA Moscow as head coach, and he took another Laker assistant, Quin Snyder, with him as his top lieutenant. John Kuester, Brown's right-hand man last season, was reassigned to the position of advanced NBA scout and will be based on the East Coast.
Joining Brown on the sidelines will be 40-year NBA veteran Bernie Bickerstaff, former Laker player Eddie Jordan, former Orlando assistant Steve Clifford and last season's holdovers, Darvin Ham and Chuck Person. It's quite a turnover for a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs. But Brown said it was time to change things up in the coaching department.
"I just wanted to go in a different direction in a couple of spots," Brown explained. "Messina went back to a job that he loved and he and Quin had grown very close, so Quin decided he wanted to take on a bit of an adventure and made the move with him." The demotion of Kuester is somewhat of a mystery, with no one wanting to address the situation on the record. Strange, since it was "Kue" who took over the reins whenever Brown wasn't available for practice or a game.
The key addition is that of Jordan, who was a reserve on the 1982 Lakers' World Championship team, backing up both Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon. Jordan has been a head coach in the NBA with Sacramento, Philadelphia and Washington. Jordan is a proponent of the "Princeton Offense" developed by longtime collegiate coach Pete Carrill, and it will be the scheme the Lakers run this year as they go for their first title since 2010 and 17th in franchise history.
Brown explained why he was enamored with the Princeton offense.
"I've always been fascinated with that offense," he said, "from the days I was in Cleveland and it seemed like every year we faced the Washington Wizards and Eddie Jordan in the first round of the playoffs.
"If you take away every player's different abilities in the NBA, and you could equate everyone into being the same type of player, then I've always thought that offense was the hardest to defend. The spacing is tremendous. The ball-movement is tremendous, and the ability to play a stress-free game is off the charts. Those things have always really attracted me to it, but I never really had the understanding to implement it, or the personnel to do it.
"In Cleveland, I didn't have the team to do it, because I had a guy like LeBron (James) who is a pick and roll player. What Miami does for him down there is what we did for him in Cleveland. You always try to play to your players' strengths. Here, this is a very intelligent team and they'll play very well using a motion offense. And that's what we're going to try and do this year." Thus, the hiring of Jordan, despite a winning percentage of .428 in his three NBA stops, primarily using the offense the Lakers plan to run in 2012-2013.
The interesting hire is that of Bickerstaff, who has been a General Manager, head coach, assistant coach, scout and TV-Radio analyst during his four decades in the NBA. He was the 1986-87 Coach of the Year with the Seattle Supersonics, and owns a 415-517 record as a head coach with the Sonics, Denver, Washington and Charlotte, where he was also the GM as the Bobcats joined the league.
Bickerstaff also gave Brown his first NBA job, hiring him in Denver to be the team's video coordinator in 1992.
Bickerstaff likens his job to that of the suddenly necessary job of bench coach in baseball; someone who gives advice and counsel, but leaves the decisions to the head man.
"That's exactly how I'd describe it," he said Monday at Lakers' Media Day. "Mike's a great basketball coach and a smart man, so I'm here to help him with anything he wants me to help him with. I'll give opinions about certain things, and he'll decide what he wants to use and what he doesn't.
"One thing people should know about Mike is that he's one of the most detailed, well-prepared coaches in this league, and I'm just realistically in the ‘observation stage.'
"My job will be to provoke thought, but not inundate him with it, because it can get to the point where there are too many voices. Mike's a very well-educated coach; he's won a lot of basketball games, so (the assistant coaches) are there for support. People who he knows are loyal to him and that he can trust. That's important in this game."
Brown feels very comfortable with his mostly-new staff.
"I am, because it's important to have guys around who have different qualities. Nothing against the guys we had — Ettore and Quin were great — but the opportunity came to make a couple of moves on the staff and we took advantage of it."
Now it will be interesting to watch this new brain trust try to win a championship with an offensive scheme that has never won the last game of the season.
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