Mike Brown had one of the briefest tenures of any Los Angeles Lakers head coach, overseeing Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team’s roster for just for 83 regular season and playoff games combined, the 11th-shortest time any coach has ever run the team.
Brown was fired just five games into the 2012 regular season after the Lakers’ superteam of Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard failed to be as fun as that infamous Sports Illustrated cover promised.
And it would be understandable if Brown was bitter about his tenure there after it ended in dysfunction and Bryant-death-stares. But as he prepared to face the Lakers in his new role as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, however, Brown made it sound like he doesn’t hold any grudges against Bryant or the Lakers.
According to Mark Medina of the Mercury News, Brown enjoyed an open relationship with Bryant, even if it meant some confrontation:
“I just coached him. If I wanted to say something to him, I said something to him about anything. If he wanted to say something to me, he’d say something to me about anything,” Brown said about Bryant in an interview with Bay Area News Group. “Now we got into it a couple of times. But it’s hard to be in this business and not get into it a time or two with any of your players.”
That line of communication is the reason Brown said he appreciated his time coaching Bryant:
“I enjoyed coaching Kobe because you always know where you stand,” Brown said. “He’s a lone wolf. I never had to worry about hearing information from an agent or a buddy or a family member like that. If he didn’t like what was going on, he was going to look you in the eye and tell you. If he liked what was going on, he was going to look you in the eye and tell you. When it ever came to any dealings that I had or thoughts that I had with him, it was always just he and I. For me personally, I appreciated that.”
Some would have and did, over the course of his career, wilted in the face of Bryant’s honesty and directness. That approach was made clear in a recent, uncensored video of Lakers practice, which was not for the faint of heart or thin-skinned.
However, as Brown outlined, there are also benefits to that type of openness and honesty because it allows for people to always know where they stand. That can be helpful in any organization, whether the individuals involved are trying to win in the high-pressure environment of professional sports or not.
Bryant’s nature is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but Brown’s words are a reminder at why for the right types of personalities, it could and did work well, even if it didn’t ultimately work out for Brown himself.
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