Mike Brown stays busy despite lockout
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The NBA has been locked out for approximately 3½ of the 4½ months since the Los Angeles Lakers introduced Mike Brown as the 22nd head coach in franchise history on May 31.
It's given Brown plenty of time to think about how he'll try to shape a team that followed up back-to-back championships with a second-round flameout in the spring.
Despite the sweep by the Dallas Mavericks that included a 36-point drubbing in Game 4, Brown does not believe drastic changes to the Lakers are necessary to get them back to the title.
More on the Lakers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Lakers, check out the Lakers Index. Blog
"I don't know if you need to change the identity too much," Brown said Thursday during a lunch interview with a handful of reporters at the Lakers' practice facility. "I don't know if you need to change the culture too much, because this was already obviously a winning culture here.
"I think there are things I can do or bring to the table to help it and there may be some things I'll be able to learn that have already been here and have been through it. So, I think it's a win-win. ... The exciting thing about coming into this team is I don't have to say anything. These guys were embarrassed last year and they're all winners because they've been there and done that. ... So, I'm not going to get in the way of that.
"That in and of itself is a motivation that I could not muster up to put inside of anybody. They have it on their own already because of how it went down last year."
While Brown will be part of a team challenge to return the championship to L.A., he faces a personal challenge as being the person to replace the most decorated championship coach in NBA history, Phil Jackson.
"Everybody hits me with, 'Man, are you worried about walking in? Especially with Phil (leaving)?'" Brown said. "Phil? I'm not trying to be Phil."
Brown said his only interaction with Jackson prior to taking over as coach of the Lakers was after the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix when Jackson's West team bested Brown's East team 146-119.
"I saw him in the back hallway after the game and I walked up to him and I said, 'Coach, I wish that we would have won the game. I could have definitely used that extra $10,000 more than you did,'" Brown said with a smile on his face. "He just laughed. ... That was the extent of our conversation."
Brown had an unexpected visitor to his office a week ago, however, when Jackson stopped by while Brown was conducting a coaches' meeting with assistants John Kuester, Chuck Person, Quin Snyder and Ettore Messina.
"He poked his head in," Brown said while explaining that Jackson was in the office to visit his longtime companion and Lakers executive, Jeanie Buss.
Brown said the conversation lasted 15-20 minutes but featured more talk between Kuester and Jackson about what part of L.A. they live in and other casual topics of that nature with the group, rather than talk between Jackson and Brown about X's and O's.
"We talked a little basketball, but that was towards the tail end of our conversation," Brown said.
The 41-year-old Brown said he and his staff have had "plenty of stuff for us to do" despite the fact that in a non-lockout year the Lakers would already be three weeks into training camp.
The first order of business was to go over Brown's playbooks and apply them to the Lakers.
They combed through his thick 200-plus page offensive playbook that he used in Cleveland and replicated it with tailored changes to fit the Lakers' personnel. They did the same with his defensive playbook, which is even thicker, but that didn't require as much adjustment.
"For the most part, almost anybody can defend," Brown said. "That's why I think you can take that from team to team. I think offensively, you can't. I think you have to change your offense based on your personnel."
They have also spent time consulting old practice plans Brown used with the Cavaliers. Several Lakers players, including Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, lamented that the Lakers' practices were not sharp enough last season and could have led to the team's demise come game time.
Brown said he plans to combat that with competitive drills at practices next season with running at stake for the losers.
"It's a pride thing," Brown said. "You don't want to run while the winners are sitting there looking at you."
While Brown is unsure of when the lockout could end, he said he is in the process of interviewing candidates to add to his bench. He is looking to fill two player development positions and add one more assistant coach that already includes Kuester, Person, Snyder, Messina and basketball operations assistant Kyle Triggs.
"I like a big staff," Brown said.
Brown credited Lakers' owner Dr. Jerry Buss for allowing him to continue to pursue staff members with all of the uncertainty surrounding the lockout, but said he has not had much direct contact with Buss since taking the job.
"He hasn't been around. I have not seen him. I don't even know if I've talked to him on the phone -- if I have, maybe one time since I've been here," Brown said of Dr. Buss, who took a long vacation in Europe during the offseason.
Brown said he has spent more time with Jim Buss, the owner's son and team executive who has become more involved in Lakers' decisions in recent seasons. Jim, who usually sticks to casual clothing, shocked Brown when he showed up at a charity event in August looking dapper.
"I'm looking for the photographer that was there because I actually took a picture next to Jim Buss and he did not have on a hat and jeans and a T-shirt," Brown said. "I have a few pictures of my family up in my office here and I might put that (photo of Buss) up on my wall if I can get it."
He is still waiting to coach his first game, but already feels like he belongs in the organization.
"I do (feel like a Laker)," Brown said. "I can't sit here and tell you why. Maybe it's because everybody has welcomed me. ... It's been good. That's probably why I feel like a Laker already."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.