It didn't take long for the Los Angeles Lakers to pull the plug on their one-year experiment at head coach with Mike Brown. Known for his defensive planning, Brown saw his star-studded Lakers team limp out to a 1-4 start before being shown the door. The former head man for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brown became the first NBA coach to be fired within five games into the season but the Lakers’ struggle dates back all the way to last season. Los Angeles lost their last two games in the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder before going on a 0-8 preseason run and sputtering to 1-4. Despite the additions of perennial all stars in center Dwight Howard and guard Steve Nash, Brown simply couldn't right the ship. But did the Lakers move too fast to remove Brown? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley debate:
Riley: You don't add two major cogs to a team's starting lineup and expect a team to not experience growing pains. Even the Miami Heat got off to a slow start with the insertion of Chris Bosh and LeBron James. It was simply a panic move for the Lakers and it's one they may live to regret as the season goes on no matter who they hire next.
Green: They didn't just add any ol’ pieces; they added Howard and Nash, two premiere players. You don't have to run through the preseason but you do have to show some signs of life in the regular season which just wasn't apparent. The Lakers have the league's biggest payroll but have been the biggest disappointment so far. We saw how Brown did with LeBron as his centerpiece and I think the Lakers ownership just lost faith in the way in which Brown handles superstars.
Riley: That Cleveland team was severely flawed aside from James' talents but that's another story. We're not talking about an 0-10 team here, we're talking about 1-4 with 77 games left. And that's a pretty bold statement. Keep in mind that Howard was out most of the summer recovering from back surgery while Nash just went down with a leg fracture in the team's second game. So when has this new team with all these new pieces had a chance to play together? Your answer: they haven't. So you remove a coach who's rarely had a chance to see his full team practice? Ridiculous.
Green: To me, it's not so much the additions but the way in which they played on the defensive end. Brown's supposed to be this guru but opposing teams were averaging more than 100 points against the Lakers in those four losses. Good team defense isn't dictated by who's in and out of the lineup so for them to simply fail on that end was clearly unacceptable. The Lakers had a full season and two full summers to see Brown in action, I'm sure his firing wasn't strictly limited to what they saw so far in the team's first few games but what they've seen over the last two years. I have a feeling the Lakers’ front office has been kicking itself since passing on replacing Phil Jackson with longtime assistant coach Brian Shaw, who won three titles as a player and two as an assistant coach, all with the Lakers. Shaw was the perfect man to coach this Lakers’ mob, but they chose to go with Brown instead. Now that Brown is fired, they have another shot to get it right and hire Shaw this time.
Riley: Perhaps so. Maybe the Lakers brass hated the way he conducted practices or whatever the reason but at least give him a chance to coach with his full team on the floor before you pull the plug to bring in another coach. When you give coach weapons, give him the time or the opportunity to work his weapons into his system. The Lakers have traditionally made the right moves when it comes to coaching but they botched this one.
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