When you are a coach in any professional sport, the number one thing you have to do–besides winning games–is handle a tremendous amount of individual ego. When you take into account the number of millionaires who are under the age of 30 that is on the typical pro sports team who mainly grew up without the luxury of all the cash, and you get a recipe for a potential unruly situation. Add being the coach of a top team, historically and currently, and you take that issue and magnify it by a thousand fold.
Such is the dilemma that Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown finds himself in currently.
Mike Brown came into the Lakers job following the greatest NBA coach of all time, Phil Jackson, and inherited a team that is lead by one of the most willful, and talented, players of all-time in Kobe Bryant. It's obvious that Brown got this coaching gig because of his past history of handling superstar ego's. He was the Cleveland Cavaliers coach and had to contend with the antics of LeBron James. But even that monumental task left him ill prepared for the bear trap that he walked into.
In Cleveland, Brown was well known for turning a blind eye to all the off the court craziness that his superstar was involved in. James basically ran the team and Brown was barely more than a glorified 'yes man'. In Los Angeles, it appears that Brown is trying everything he can to rectify that reputation, and it may end up costing him his job.
Brown has been playing hard-ball with his team the last week, trying to make examples out of individuals that don't play 'his' way. He went so far as to pull his star players out for inexplicable reasons, mainly the short benching of Kobe Bryant for a short stretch in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to Memphis. More recently, he sat Andrew Bynum for all but five minutes of the second half in the Lakers win on Tuesday night over the Golden State Warriors. Kobe was benched for poor shot selection and Bynum for taking a bad three-point attempt.
This benching of players, meant to send a message that this team is Mike Brown's first and foremost, have instead had the opposite effect of angering players and furthering the gap between coach and player. Mike Brown, however, seems oblivious to this and stands behind his current direction and decision making.
"I'm going to coach the team how I think I need to coach it. It's as simple as that," Brown said Wednesday after practice in El Segundo. "If I feel like I need to make a sub, then I'll make a sub. If I feel like we're not getting production from certain guys out on the floor — production the right way — then I'll make a change. I don't think it's any more complicated than that."
The sad truth of what may be Mike Brown's short tenure as Lakers coach is that anybody who followed in the footsteps of Phil Jackson was to be basically a dead man walking. Like a rebound date for a person coming off of a long relationship, Mike Brown is probably doomed to be a one (or two) and done. The only way this can be averted is to win a Championship, something that is remotely possible, but only if he has the trust of his players.
And that, sadly, doesn't appear to be the case.
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