Mike Brown, Head Coach
2011-12 Season Grade – C+
When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike Brown to take the throne that Phil Jackson vacated, criticism ran rampant. Although everyone knew that Brown would never fill Jackson’s shoes, it seemed uncertain as to whether he’d even be able to handle the pressure that comes with being the coach of the Lakers.
Well, it wasn’t all fireworks. It was, however, a decent season considering how high the annual expectations are for the purple and gold.
Of course, the fans will be upset that the Lakers fell short again this season. That, however, shouldn’t completely overshadow the fact that Brown’s first season as L.A.’s head honcho went fairly well. The Lakers finished the season with a record of 41-25 (62.1 winning percentage) and earned the third seed in the Western Conference. Brown weathered Hurricane Andrew and found a way to make Metta World Peace look more like Ron Artest. Considering how many curveballs this season threw at him, the end result could have been a lot worse.
The real setback was the shortened off-season and compacted, 66-game schedule. Especially when a new head coach comes aboard, there needs to be time to implement new schemes and plays. A condensed season like 2011-2012 limits a coach’s ability to get his team running at optimum levels. Despite those overwhelming odds, Brown led the Lakers to an above-average season that involved a playoff run that found its way out of the first round. To put it in perspective: he took a team with less talent a game further than Jackson did in 2011.
Despite making the playoffs with an iffy roster, Brown struggled mightily with quite a few aspects. The fact that he couldn’t command the respect of his players, as evidenced by numerous temper tantrums via Andrew Bynum, was disheartening. In-game adjustments eluded him at every turn. His offense, or lack thereof, was typically ineffective and often ran exclusively through Kobe Bryant. No matter how obvious it seemed, Brown struggled to comprehend how important it was to pass the ball into the paint early and often. At times, it looked like Bryant was leading the team and Brown was just along for the ride. Although regarded as a keen defensive mind, Brown’s defense consistently got bullied by offenses of any and all calibers.
The most glaring problem throughout the 2011-2012 season, though, was Brown’s inability to control his players. Throughout the season, players were unwilling to show him respect, especially Bynum. When Bryant was injured and acting like a coach, he was drawing up plays while Brown was standing in the background. As the Lakers lost steam during the final two games of the Thunder series, Brown seemed lost and was unable to rally the troops. By Game 5, Brown had checked out and his players followed.
Regardless of the numerous setbacks that the Lakers suffered this season, Brown won’t get the ax during the offseason. He has too many years and too much green still left on his contract for the Lakers to sever ties. The Lakers will certainly give him another opportunity next season to prove that he can reassert this team as an NBA elite.
But will a full-length season be enough for him to secure his spot as the Lakers’ head coach in 2013? Maybe, but we won’t find out for another few months. Until then, speculation as to whether or not Brown has the coaching cojones to carry this team will run amok.