OAKLAND – Though the move is not yet official, multiple league sources confirm Mike Brown is finalizing the details of his contract and before the end of the week will become Steve Kerr’s No. 1 coaching assistant with the Warriors.
Only a last-minute snag would prevent it
Brown will be an interesting hire, curious for a variety of reasons.
Kerr deeply values the intense/joyful culture built over the past two years, during which time the Warriors have won 140 games while appearing in consecutive NBA Finals. There is no indication Brown would be a seamless fit.
Kerr previously has dismissed the possibility of hiring quality coaches because they were not the right fit. One candidate last summer was deemed as “too serious.” Kerr wants guys who fully embrace his desire to balance the heavy with the light, as his first top assistant, Alvin Gentry, was able to do so well.
Gentry’s successor, Luke Walton, was the prototype, able to bond with every corner of the locker room and also provide the yin to the yang of high-strung forward Draymond Green – something profoundly significant to the potential of the Warriors.
There is nothing to suggest Brown, who in his first term in Cleveland never quite reached young LeBron James, is cut from similar cloth. During his time as coach of the Lakers, Brown by most accounts failed to earn Kobe Bryant’s full engagement.
Kerr believes in delegating specific duties to his coaches. As a rookie coach, he hired Gentry to focus on offense and Ron Adams to focus on defense – each was an NBA veteran – while youngsters Jarron Collins and Walton learned from both.
Insofar as Walton excelled as a replacement for Gentry, it would be logical to think Walton’s replacement would be someone most noted for his offense. Brown is known for defense, which would duplicate the role of Adams, who is 68 but told CSNBayArea.com during the playoffs that he had no plans to retire before his contract ends after next season.
Hiring Brown seems more a matter of choosing experience over creativity and comfort over inspiration. Rather than bring in a bright, young assistant with a perceived high ceiling – as with Walton two years ago – Kerr is opting for someone he has known for at least the better part of two decades and with whom he has common bonds.
There most assuredly is the recommendation of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who sits atop Kerr’s “respect list.” Pop’s word in many matters, even beyond basketball, is gospel to Steve.
Brown is someone with whom Kerr has won a championship ring, in 2003, as Brown was young assistant in San Antonio when Kerr was concluding his playing career. That counts for something, maybe a lot.
That Brown, like Kerr, is from the Popovich coaching tree may count for even more.
With the exception of brief periods of unemployment, Brown has been coaching in the NBA since 1997. He’s a three-time assistant and a three-time head coach. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2009. His basketball credentials are strong.
Given his solid character and unquestioned commitment to the game, hiring Brown is a low-risk move.
Is it a fit? It wouldn’t, on the face of it, seem so. But Kerr’s staff is in the midst of change, much of it forced by Walton’s departure and the anticipation that he’ll take several Warriors staffers with him to the Los Angeles.
Bringing in Brown indicates Kerr wants someone who has been there, done that. Someone who fits well enough with the team but maybe even better with him.