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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Mitch Kupchak on Mike Brown

By Andy Kamenetzky

After Mike Brown's press conference, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took some questions from the media. Brian and I have often joked how Mitch would be a great C.I.A. operative, in that the dude is an expert in revealing zero information through his speech. Thus, the lack of unique specifics -- much less bombshells -- dropped should come as a surprise to nobody. Still, there were a few unexpected elements.

First, the obvious annoyance exhibited at having to validate this hire. Kupchak remained even keel as always, but by his mellow standards, he was a little testy. The guy clearly took exception with the media's portrayal of how (and perhaps why) Brown entered the fold. Also, Kupchak didn't shoot down the possibility of Kobe Bryant and Brown not seeing eye-to-eye on everything, and maybe not always getting along. On it's face, this isn't particularly revelatory, since coaches and players with fantastic relationships don't always walk in lockstep. But between how much ultimately does ride on Kobe buying what Brown's selling, Brown's need to win fans over and 24's difficult reputation (always a touchy subject), I imagine most General Managers would have downplayed any possibility of butting heads. Kupchak instead acknowledged the possibility, but downplayed any potential fallout, the caveat being winning cures all.

On whether he was surprised by the negative reaction to Brown's hiring
"Not that I don't respect the opinions of the media, but a lot of times, the media is driven by other variables. For example, my office, in the morning when I come in after a series ends, my light's on on my phone and I've got a bunch of mail on my desk, and it's all negative. People that are positive don't take the time to write a letter saying how happy they are, or call and leave a message on the phone to say how happy they are. So negative 'sells,' to some degree. It's also hard to follow in the footsteps of somebody like Phil Jackson. I know that myself. Our season did not end on a positive note. We lost a Hall of Fame coach and we bring in a coach that people on the west aren't as familiar with as people on the east are, so there's gonna be some criticism. So I'm never really completely surprised."

On the perception of Brown being hired quickly
"It's not like Phil Jackson decided to leave four weeks ago and all of a sudden, we had to hire a coach. From time to time during the season, I met with ownership and talked about what kind of a coach we looked to replace Phil [Jackson] with. Although at the very end we always hoped that we won another championship and we could talk him back into returning. It was clear to me that he was not returning. So you could say the process began a year ago. If you look at it that way, it wasn't a very short process at all.

"And the other thing that I mentioned is we were behind a little bit. Teams that the playoffs ended three weeks before ours, they had begun the process. We knew who we wanted to interview. We had great interest. We knew we'd have no problem finding a good coach, and when we interviewed the candidates, we were most comfortable with Mike."

On why the Lakers hired Mike Brown
"First and foremost, we judged him on his body of work, which you could look back on his five years as a coach in Cleveland. He was a Coach of the Year, which my understanding is the media members voted on that. The same media members that criticized him, I guess a little bit, voted on him and made him Coach of the Year. We felt his pedigree as a coach, no disrespect to anybody else, but he put in his time. In Denver. He put in time in San Antonio. He put in time in Indiana. He put in time in Washington. And then he was a very successful head coach in Cleveland. And then lastly, as mentioned, the interview went really, really, well. Based on that information, we decided to hire Mike Brown."

Was the speed of the hiring process dictated by other openings around the league
"We were aware of the other openings. I'm not sure what you meant by quickly. Did you expect three or four months? I mean, it took three weeks to come to who we wanted to hire as a coach and we had the people on our radar that we felt were people that we wanted to interview. We didn't want to interview anybody more. I had several informal interviews. Certainly, the process could have gone on for another two to three weeks. But if you find your guy and we all agreed on him as our guy, we made a decision to move quickly."

On whether Brown was on their radar last offseason when it was still unknown if Jackson would return
"Well, first of all, I always felt like Phil was going to come back, so we didn't have a year jump on it like we did this year. And we're obviously very aware of Mike's success in Cleveland. I look at our roster and I look at the roster in Cleveland, I like our roster better. I'm biased. So I think he did a heck of a job where I think our roster is better. So we knew he did a good job in Cleveland, but when you look at another team's coach, you don't normally say, "I want to steal that coach." Because he was still employed at the time."

On whether Brown's biggest issue will be how he deals and gets along with Kobe Bryant?
"I think that's incredibly important, to have a really solid relationship with your best player. I do. I think that's a very important distinction... I think he's about winning and I think Kobe's about winning. If we win, I don't think there's gonna be a problem. And they may not always see eye to eye. They may not get along very well. But if we win, Kobe's gonna be happy. We're gonna be happy. And Mike's gonna be happy.

(From there, Kupchak asked what was meant by "how Brown deals with Kobe," and it was noted that Kobe hasn't always been easy to coach, which could be a problem.)

"It sounds like our coach is going to hold players accountable. Quite frankly, it's a breath of fresh of air, to have a change like this. There are natural tendencies when you have a coach for 11 years. You kind of get set in your ways a little bit and I think although they may have a great relationship, I think it's gonna be different. But I know Mike wants to get along with him. [And] Kobe's most important thing is to win."