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Lakers' decision to fire Coach Mike Brown is all about the win

'We made some bold moves in the off-season, and we expected better returns,' Jim Buss says. Now to find Brown's replacement. Paging Phil Jackson ...

November 10, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers Executive VP Jim Buss, left, and his father, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, at a press conference introducing Mike Brown as the new Lakers coach on May 31, 2011.
Lakers Executive VP Jim Buss, left, and his father, Lakers owner Jerry Buss,… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Great news.

Phil Jackson is writing another book, "Eleven Rings," but it's not scheduled to be published until next year, so there's plenty of time to change the title.

And more great news as well for Devin Ebanks, who might be out celebrating for all we know.

He gets arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence, it becomes public a few hours later but is lost moments later with the hullabaloo surrounding the dismissal of Lakers Coach Mike Brown.

Maybe some others are troubled over the timing of Brown's departure, but I can't imagine Ebanks objecting.

As for everyone else, the Lakers being the championship Lakers and the most highly regarded franchise in town, how can there be any disagreement?

What do most fans expect from their favorite team, beyond every possible effort to win?

In many places that effort is promised but not made.

The Lakers weren't winning, the brain trust was unwilling to gamble that they would in time, and so they agreed to eat more than $10 million in guaranteed salary owed to Brown.

How many sports organizations would be willing to swallow such a financial loss in the name of winning?

"It's a lot of money," says Jim Buss. "But it just wasn't working."

Maybe it was a mistake to hire Brown, and with Friday's decision, that's hard to argue with. But the most important thing about making mistakes is correcting them.

Maybe there's an explanation for why ESPN.com quotes Buss as saying Brown's job is safe on Thursday, ESPN runs it on a crawl below much of its programming all day long, and Brown loses his job on Friday.

"I talked to the reporter and that's how I felt," says Buss. "But after the Utah game and the way it went, I saw my dad and talked to Mitch on the phone. There had been a lot of concern, some uneasiness the way things were going, beginning with the preseason. And then no progress game to game, the [Princeton] system just not sitting well with everyone.

"I just don't think the system worked for the players we brought in. The players did their best with it. But we just didn't see any progress, so we discussed it together and that was just it."

But maybe the Lakers are moving too quickly, with Brown getting a strike-shortened season a year ago and only five chances this season to excel.

"That would be the other side of the coin, and I understand that thinking," says Buss. "But we just felt we made some bold moves in the off-season, and we expected better returns."

The Lakers have one season to persuade Dwight Howard to remain, and this season and next remaining on Kobe Bryant's contract, and they are built to win now.

"I think everyone understands with the Lakers that if you are the coach you are expected to win right away," says Magic Johnson.

Thirty-one years ago this month, the Lakers fired Paul Westhead after a 7-4 start, allowing Pat Riley to take over. In hindsight, the Lakers knew what they were doing.

"This season can still be turned around, and Phil Jackson can make that turnaround happen," says Magic. "He brings in instant credibility and respect."

Beyond Jackson, Mike D'Antoni will get the most attention because of his coaching relationship with Steve Nash in Phoenix, Dwight Howard in the Olympics and Kobe going back to time spent together in Italy.

"Two plus two," says Buss, while conceding D'Antoni's coaching style might have some thinking about the return of Showtime.

"We're putting together a list now, and I think almost everybody can name the names on it," he says. "But I think it goes without saying we have to find out what Phil is thinking."

Buss says the team's intent now is to hire a replacement "ASAP." A favorable home schedule is sitting there waiting to be exploited as the Lakers try to right themselves.

But what about Brown, as nice a guy as anyone might meet in sports?

"I don't like firing anyone," says Buss.

So was it Kobe's death stare that did in Brown?

"I saw it, but I believed it was aimed at somebody else and not Mike Brown," says Buss. "And I wouldn't call it a death stare; it's just Kobe and he doesn't like losing."

It feels like a panic move; Kobe calls fans "idiots" for panicking earlier and tells the media Thursday when asked about Brown, "I've been his biggest supporter."

And Buss repeats himself. "I told you no player was consulted; it probably came as a shock to Kobe. It was something Mitch, my dad and I have been looking at for some time, and that means practices, preseason games, everything.

"It had nothing to do with the fans or anything else except we just weren't comfortable the way things were going and we want to win. Everyone in the room was unanimous it was time for a change."

Buss says the Lakers' big four will be consulted as part of the due diligence required in hiring a new coach so no one is blindsided by someone they just can't stand.

Can't imagine anyone vetoing Jackson as the team's next coach other than Phil if he has no interest in working again.

"I know people will say that I don't want Phil, but what more can I do than say it's just not true," says Buss. "We're going to do everything we can right now to set this right."

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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