Lakers assistants left in awkward position
November, 9, 2012
By Brian Kamenetzky
LOS ANGELES -- The word Bernie Bickerstaff used was "consented." Not exactly a verb of enthusiasm, but then again there was nothing to be enthusiastic about from his perspective when Mitch Kupchak asked him to coach Friday's game against Golden State in the wake of Mike Brown's firing.
This is not a place Bickerstaff, who gave Brown his first gig in the NBA as an intern in Denver, wanted to be.
"Mitch is a friend. Mike's a friend," he said. "He asked me, and I consented. So I'm here."
Days like Friday throw focus on the players left behind (How will they respond?), the newly unemployed coach (Where does he go next?), or the list of possible replacements. But without question the group put in the most awkward spot, continuing to do their jobs until a new coach -- and likely a new staff -- is brought in. These aren't a group of guys pushing Brown out the door.
"We're in that fox hole together. You're probably together more so than you are your families. There's a bond. I think basically, we all hurt, because there was a mutual respect for Mike," Bickerstaff said. "Mike's a great coach. Mike's won a lot of basketball games, and he's been in the Finals."
Meanwhile, they'll work in limbo as long as they're around.
"We have a professional obligation to come to work and do our jobs, as coaches and as players," Bickerstaff said. "I think that has to be the approach. The emotional part of it has to be set aside when we cross the lines and lines and they toss the ball, but we're all human and we have those human qualities. That we feel, and we care," he said.
The same sentiment was echoed before the game by assistant coach Darvin Ham. You just keep coaching, he said.
I'm speculating, but Bickerstaff may have accepted so another member of the staff wouldn't have to. Having spent decades in the coaching business, he's not someone realistically angling for another head coaching job, and certainly has no chance at this one. Chuck Person, mentioned earlier in the day as a potential fill-in, is considered an up-and-comer and doesn't benefit from wearing an "interim" tag, even for a couple of days. It's sort of a much shorter-term version of when Frank Hamblen fell on the sword and coached the Lakers after Rudy Tomjanovich was let go.
Of the remaining members of Brown's staff, there's a good chance Person sticks around under the new regime. I could see Ham being retained, as well as Steve Clifford, who has a solid relationship with Dwight Howard from his days in Orlando. But again, I'm just making more educated guesses. I don't know, and I suspect nobody on Brown's staff does, either.
It's one thing for the executioner to come swiftly, as it did for Brown. Waiting around a few more days for the (potentially, at least) inevitable is, to say the least, an awkward place to be.