EL SEGUNDO, CA — When Mike Brown left the Lakers’ practice facility here Thursday, the only thing on his mind was preparing for Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. Less than 24 hours later, he’s preparing his resume.
The Lakers fired Brown after a poor 1-4 start preceded by an 0-8 preseason record. Ownership felt it had seen enough of the passionless, emotionless play of their $100 million basketball team, and it was Brown who took the fall. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff, a 40-year NBA veteran, will coach the team against the Warriors.
“Mike’s a good man,” said general manager Mitch Kupchak during his news conference. “Very hard working; maybe one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever been around. The bottom line is that the team was not winning at the pace that we expected, and we didn’t see any improvement.
“We wish Mike well and we’re sorry it ended this way. But we’ve decided to move in another direction and make a change.”
Kupchak said a coaching search would begin immediately, most likely focusing on a former head coach or an assistant who currently is not working. Kupchak also said there’s a possibility they could approach another NBA team about one of their assistant coaches.
Bickerstaff is considered a long shot to keep the job, and Kupchak gave no indication any of the assistant coaches — Chuck Person, Eddie Jordan, Darvin Ham and Scott Clifford — would be retained on a new staff.
“They’ll be here tonight,” he said bluntly. “After that, we’ll see how things work out.”
For one player, it didn’t seem like he was sorry to see Brown go.
“There’s a lot of aspiring video coordinators out there,” said Metta World Peace as he was driving from the practice facility.
That was another shot at his former coach, who he accused last season of not really knowing the NBA because he started out as a video coordinator. That was during a public feud between Brown and MWP — one that seemed patched up but never really was.
“In this world,” Metta continued, “nothing’s surprising. This is business and business isn’t cruel. Business is just business. He’s not the first employee to get fired. He made a great living. It’s just something that happens.”
Forward Pau Gasol, one of the Lakers’ co-captains along with Kobe Bryant, was equally blunt about the situation.
“(Brown’s firing) is pretty much a direct message to all of us,” Gasol said. “There’s no messing around. It’s time to step it up. We didn’t get off to a good start. We have an appreciation for how hard Mike was working, but for whatever reason it wasn’t working.”
Gasol also said that anytime a coach is fired, it’s somewhat traumatic to the team.
“It’s a lot to digest,” he said. “It’s not something we quite expected. It’s the third time I’ve been on a team where the coach got fired. I feel sorry for the coach.”
Then he added cryptically, “there’s been a lot going on regardless.”
You don’t have to be Dr. Phil to realize that the Lakers weren’t enjoying themselves as much as you think they would. A team full of great players playing for a legendary organization, yet there were times when they performed with a zombie-like look in their eyes. Kupchak said he thought the team was playing with a lot of emotion — frustration being the one that prevailed.
“We saw a lot of frustration out there at times, but the players were playing hard,” Kupchak said.
The question, though, is whether they were playing hard enough. The answer might be seen Friday night when they go against Golden State. World Peace says there are a ton of expectations on this Laker team, and rightfully so.
“Laker fans, they love victories, “he said. “But we have to take that as a positive. We’re still playing basketball and fans are still coming to the games. The only thing that can be said now is that moving forward, the story will write itself. History writes itself.”