- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- After posting a winning record as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers but not even getting the chance to coach a full 82 games out of the four-year contract he signed before getting the boot, Mike Brown wants current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to be afforded a longer leash than he was.
"Mike D'Antoni is a good coach and it's great that they're going to give him an opportunity here because I think in time he'll get this thing headed in the right direction," said Brown, fired just five games into last season despite going 42-29 (.592) in his time pacing the sidelines for L.A. "They're going through a lot of transition right now and so it's going to make it even tougher, especially with the injuries and all that. But the Lakers, they've always been on top and they just got to keep trying to fight and figure out how to get back there. It will just be a matter of time."
Brown could relate to the challenges that D'Antoni is currently facing when he reflected on his short stint coaching the purple and gold before the Cavs played the Lakers on Tuesday.
"Even with the team that I had, guys weren't always 100 percent healthy and there was a lot of newness, so I never really had a great feel for the group," Brown said. "I'm sure Mike is feeling that now with the change, especially with the injuries and stuff like that, it's been tough for him to get a great feel for the group. Until he can get a healthy roster and get some time with that healthy roster, it's going to continue to fluctuate even though he has some veterans on the team still.
"It's a tough task. I mean, you look at the history of change. You go back, even Miami's first year [with LeBron James], everybody thought the ceiling was going to fall in and you got guys in their prime that came together when you talk about D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], LeBron and Chris Bosh and then you look at their bench and they had U.S. Olympians on their bench, too. And through the first 20-30 games, everybody thought that that thing should have been broken up. It's a matter of time before you can get things going and I think with Mike it will be a matter of time before having a roster that's stable before he can get things going."
D'Antoni, for his part, mostly avoided commenting on Brown when he was asked about his predecessor. After Monday's practice, D'Antoni said that coaches are not usually social with one another because of the competitive nature of the field. Before Tuesday's game, D'Antoni was asked about the Princeton-style offense that Brown tried to implement last season in L.A. and similarly skirted the subject.
"I don't know," D'Antoni said. "I'm not even an expert on my offense."
Brown says he does not believe that the fact Phil Jackson, the most decorated coach in league history, was recently the coach of the Lakers and continues to hover around the franchise as Jeanie Buss' fiancee creates any extra pressure on the job in L.A.
"Whether you're in the shadow of Phil Jackson or not, in this business, or any professional business especially with the money that's on the table, and the way that social media is, everybody expects you to win yesterday," Brown said. "Whether you're coaching in Phil's shadow or you're going back to Cleveland in [Byron Scott's] shadow, you're expected to win. So, it's all the same."
Said D'Antoni of the Jackson dynamic: "It is what it is. Any time you follow a great coach the expectations are way high, but every situation is different and the reality is you just deal with it, go on and do the best you can."
Brown also downplayed any friction that occurred between him and former Lakers center Andrew Bynum when they were reunited in Cleveland this season, comparing his relationship with Bynum to how he interacted with Kobe Bryant.
"It’s funny, a lot of people think there were behavior problems here when I coached [Bynum]," Brown said. "I mean, hey, I love Kobe but Kobe and I got into it too. Andrew wasn't the only one that I had a disagreement with. There were [other] guys on the roster. When you coach an NBA team, you're going to have disagreements with guys on your roster. That's part of it. That's part of being a head coach of a basketball team.
"The good part about it is you like guys, obviously, that are going to try to challenge you and push you because you know -- in my opinion -- you know that they care. Now, if it gets out of the box then you have to do something about it, but I had no problem with Andrew when I was here and I had no problem with him in Cleveland and have no problem with him as an individual or anybody else that I've coached."
And how's that relationship with Bryant these days?
"It's fine," Brown said. "After I got fired, we had communicated a couple times. We don't talk all the time or anything like that, but we had communicated a couple times. The respect, I think, is there from him to me and I know the respect from me to him is there too. To be around him, I felt like I learned a lot in a short amount of time that I was around him. Like I said, we didn't always agree, but I don't think he always agreed with Phil [Jackson], either."
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne