Mike Brown Fired But Phil Jackson Ain’t Walking Through That Door: Here’s The Unheralded Coach That Should

Well, that was quick. Mike Brown wore out his stay on the Los Angeles Lakers bench quicker than Charlie Sheen checking in at the Marriot. Okay maybe not that quickly but after an 0-8 preseason and 1-4 record to start his second campaign, Lakers management had to torch the body before the rotting stench in the Pacific Division's cellar became too much to bear for L.A.'s increasingly nervous fanbase.

In the interim, Bernie Bickerstaff will assume head coaching duties while the Lakers are reportedly in the process of compiling a short-list of coaching candidates.

According to ESPN.com 'a source with connected with the Lakers' brain trust said the firing was done "more to stop what was happening than to pursue anybody else." 

It may be a panic move but so is running out of a burning building. Mike Brown clearly wasn’t working out in Los Angeles. Most disconcerting was the lack of leadership displayed by Brown. It was obvious from interviews, insiders and outside observers that Bryant was the Putin to figurehead Brown's Medvedev.

Bryant even hinted at the 42-year-old Brown’s ranking in the Lakers caste-system last Friday in an oddly conflicting defense of the Princeton offense, in which he pointed out Brown's lack of rings.

Outwardly, Black Mamba told fans to be patient but his vitriolic Wednesday night death stare directed at Brown should be archived in our memories alongside Carrie covered in pigs blood or the Vader death grip. No words were needed for the message to be relayed.  

Brown was a figurehead who was notorious for allowing his assistants to draw up offensive plays in the huddle, too goofy to demand respect and foolishly implemented the Princeton offense that put Dwight Howard on the high post instead of the low block where he would have to rely on his non-existent passing skills for the offense to excel.

The offense was the primary reason for Brown's dismissal. His Ivy League offense took the ball out of Steve Nash's hands, which is akin to hiring Victoria's Secret Models to model parkas in June. 

Another harbinger of Brown’s impending doom; from the outset, Brown’s decision to hire ex-Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan as his de facto offensive coordinator resembled Mike D’Antoni unintentionally hiring his successor Mike Woodson as his defensive private eye. Woodson was fired after improving the Atlanta Hawks from a cellar dwelling Georgia lottery franchise into a 53-win playoff team. Jordan was coaching middle school basketball in D.C. last season. 

The question now becomes who is the next head coach to follow in the footsteps of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Jackson isn’t walking through that door. Not because of a bad hip but because he’s more interested in replicated Riley's ascending into the front office at this juncture in his career. The passion for the day-to-day rigors of coaching have left him.

Mike D’Antoni is the name that’s burning on the tip of tongues but after watching the manner in which Woodson has transformed the Knicks defensively, the Lakers should avoid D’Antoni like Rick Grimes avoids the walking dead.

The Lakers have experience with D’Antoni’s type. They fired offensive guru Paul Westhead (who is often confused with Paul Westphal)11 games into the ’81 season after a 7-4 start at the request of Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson loved Showtime’s up-tempo offense but he loved winning more.

D'Antoni graduated from the Don Nelson Offensive School of Mad Geniuses, will utilize Nash best and his teams do more with less in the regular season but in the playoffs his teams are too one-dimensional. He never had a low post defender of Dwight Howard’s caliber in Phoenix. In New York, Tyson Chandler won his first Defensive Player of the Year Award but the Knicks defense didn’t find it’s footing until D’Antoni was fired.

Realistically, Jerry Buss’ son, Jim also can't hire ex-Lakers assistant Brian Shaw. Bryant endorsed Shaw as Jackson's replacement last summer but the Lakers dynamic has changed since then.  Shaw's expertise is Phil and Tex's Triangle offense, which tends to diminish the point guard's role.  The Lakers want to accentuate Nash not push him into the background. 

Nor are the Lakers interested in grooming a young coach. They are built to win now.

There's one man out there with the gray-haired gravitas to assume this role and it's not Jackson.

Last year, the bearded Rick Adelman was the coaching strategist many believed had the acumen to get the Lakers back on track but he was passed over last summer and snatched up by Minnesota.

Jerry Sloan is the man for this job.

According to Hoopworld’s Alex Kennedy, “Many within NBA circles believe it’s only a matter of time before Brown is fired. Jerry Sloan and Mike D’Antoni are two names that have surfaced as possible replacements for Brown. ‘Jerry Sloan to L.A. by December 1,’ one league source predicted. ‘[Steve] Nash and [Dwight] Howard are the new [John] Stockton and [Karl] Malone. He wants a ring, not to mention the money. He didn’t seriously consider Orlando, Charlotte or Portland [openings] over the summer because he knew Los Angeles would open up.’

The Lakers may be concerned about the age of their starting lineup but their issue previously may have been their head coach’s youth. A noted disciplinarian, Sloan is a seasoned bench General compared to Corporal Brown.

Sloan has forgotten more about coaching than Brown will ever learn.

It’s interesting that the Lakers fired Brown, not the day after another loss but after news broke that Sloan was apparently interested should raise a few eyebrows (or one for Anthony Davis).

Sloan has to be licking his chops at the possibility of ending his coaching career drawing up different ways for Nash to throw alley oops to Dwight Howard. Or just for the heck of it, Howard to Nash.

Sloan’s flex offenses used the pick and roll effectively enough for Stockton and Malone-led Jazz to make consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Then with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer flexing their muscle in the flex, Sloan led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals where they were swept by Jackson’s Lakers.

Unlike Phil, Sloan wants to return to coaching. More importantly, he can match Bryant’s intensity, keep Artest off the Hennessy, utilize Nash correctly and keep Dwight Howard focused.

It’s time Lakers management make the rumor a reality.

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