With the recent news that the Lakers are close to signing former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown everybody seems to be scratching their heads. Brown was not one of the candidates that we heard mentioned on a consistent basis with the Los Angeles coaching position, and took a late charge to storm ahead of the likes of Brian Shaw, Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy, and others to earn what seems to be the top position with the Lakers.
While many are questioning the Lakers’ decision to bring in Brown, who had success in Cleveland but was fired after failing to win a championship, it’s easy to look at why there are so many questions. The general uproar that has followed generates mainly because the fans in Los Angeles feel that Mike Brown isn’t at the same level that Phil Jackson was. Well, yeah.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter who you bring in as the next head coach they are stepping into shoes that will be impossible to fill. Phil Jackson was the greatest coach in NBA history, and had earned a level of respect that allowed him to do whatever he pleased without consequence or second guessing. Whether the Lakers brought in an experienced veteran or an unproven assistant, expecting them to match the achievements of Phil Jackson is just downright unfair.
As with any new coaching hire there are usually just as many questions as there are answers. Most coaches have been around the league for several years and have tried and failed in more than one of their coaching stops. This is what makes Jackson such a unique specimen and a legendary figure. Jackson coached two teams during his NBA coaching career. He led his first team to six championships and he led his second team to five. No other coach even comes close to that amount of success. So no matter the decision the Lakers make regarding their next head coach, it’s safe to say it will seem like a downgrade.
That doesn’t mean that the Mike Brown hire is good or bad, it just means it’s unfair to compare him to Jackson. Just as it would be unfair to compare any other coach to Jackson. If the news was that Rick Adelman, Jeff Van Gundy, or even Brian Shaw was going to be the next coach there would be just as many questions. This has more to do with the departing coach than the incoming one. When a coach as decorated as Jackson leaves there is a hole that can’t be filled. Even if the Lakers brought in the second best coach in the NBA it would be considered a downgrade because of Phil’s success.
It’s important not to judge Brown or any other Laker coaching candidate on the expectations that Phil Jackson has repeatedly exceeded. Even though it will be impossible for the next head coach to blaze their own trail, that’s the mindset that the organization and the fans need to have. Mike Brown isn’t Phil Jackson. Brian Shaw isn’t Phil Jackson. And they never claimed to be. Wherever the Lakers decide to go with their coaching questions will arise, but that’s not the new coach’s fault. It’s the previous one’s.