Lakers search for coach; Jackson not contacted

Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the team tonight against the Golden State Warriors.

The Lakers will conduct a national search for a coach to replace Mike Brown, who was fired Friday after the team's 1-4 start, barely a month into his second season with the team, which struggled badly amid high expectations.

Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff will coach Friday night's game against Golden State but the Lakers soon will begin a search for a long-term replacement. Candidates could include Mike D'Antoni, Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, Nate McMillan and Brian Shaw.

Jackson had not yet been formally contacted by the team as of late Friday morning. It would be complicated for the Lakers to hire Shaw, despite his long-term relationship with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers would need permission to talk to Shaw, an associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers.

D'Antoni, Sloan and McMillan are all former NBA head coaches.

Brown's firing marked the earliest removal of a coach in the Lakers' history. Del Harris was relieved of his duties 12 games into the 1999 season.

Brown had about $10 million left on his contract. He had another guaranteed year remaining and a partial guarantee in 2013-14.

Brown was "caught off guard" by the firing, according to a person close to him and later released a statement: “I have great respect for the Buss family and the Lakers’ storied tradition and I thank them for the opportunity they afforded me. I have a deep appreciation for the coaches and players that I worked with this past year and I wish the organization nothing but success as they move forward.”

The Lakers were 41-25 in Brown's first season, losing to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinal playoffs. The team had trouble this season picking up Brown's newly installed Princeton-based offense. They also lagged defensively, a disturbing trend for the team because Brown arrived with a reputation as a defensive-minded coach.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak tried not to sound any alarms in an interview Thursday with The Times.

"Expectations are high, there's no doubt. The city is impatient," acknowledged Kupchak, who has grown the team's payroll to $100 million, plus a $30 million luxury tax for going over the league's salary cap. "At what point do you lose patience? Is it 1-15? Is it a higher number? A lesser number? I don't know right now. But we have a game Friday night and we're going to win it and try to build off that."

-Mike Bresnahan

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