Just five games into the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have fired head coach Mike Brown.
Expectations were high for the Lakers heading into the season after the offseason acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard but they stumbled to a 1-4 record to start the season after losing all eight preseason games.
“This was a difficult and painful decision to make,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Mike was very hard-working and dedicated, but we felt it was in the best interest of the team to make a change at this time. We appreciate Mike’s efforts and contributions and wish him and his family the best of luck.”
Brown, who previously coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, was in just his second season on the job. He led the Lakers to a 41-25 record during the 2011-12 season before they bowed out in the second round of the playoffs.
“I have great respect for the Buss family and the Lakers’ storied tradition, and I thank them for the opportunity they afforded me,” Brown said in a statement issued by the Lakers. “I have a deep appreciation for the coaches and players that I worked with this past year, and I wish the organization nothing but success as they move forward.”
Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will take over as bench boss for Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s a pretty direct message to all of us,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said while leaving the Lakers’ shootaround Friday morning in El Segundo. “There’s no messing around. It’s time for all of us to step it up.”
The Lakers carry the NBA’s largest payroll of just over $100 million but are currently sitting in the basement of the Western Conference standings.
Nash has only played 1.5 games for the Lakers this season since suffering a small fracture in his left leg on Oct. 31 while Howard has admitted that he is not 100 per cent after having back surgery last May.
“Tough day. I’ve seen coaches as well as friends come and go,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said on his Facebook page. “No matter how many years I’ve been playing, it’s still hard to deal with. I had a good relationship with Mike and I will continue to have one. I wish him and his family nothing but the best. I spoke with him today and thanked him for all of his hard work and sacrifice.”
Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, former New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni and former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, now the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers, have been linked to the Lakers head coaching job in recent days.
Brown implemented a new offensive scheme this fall that didn’t appear to suit his players’ talents, while the Lakers also played spotty defence, Brown’s specialty. The Princeton-based offence received ridicule, but Bryant and his teammates largely defended the motion scheme, saying they needed time to implement it.
“I don’t think we lost faith at any moment,” Gasol said. “I think we all believed in what we were trying to do. We also understood it was going to take a little bit of time to do things the way they should have been done. As far as our game, it wasn’t happening as fast as we all wanted it to.”
– With files from Associated Press