In seven seasons as an NBA coach, Mike Brown’s teams have placed in the league’s bottom 6 on pace three times. In his only full season with the Lakers, the team ranked 20and rhythmically. Once with the Cavaliers, Brown’s group ranked 19and and twice was 18and.
Brown likes to play a slow, deliberate game that can be won with a really good defense and a decent enough offense. In some cases, this philosophy makes sense. For the Sacramento Kings, that’s not the case. It’s a team that has star point guard De’Aaron Fox at its core, whose game is all about speed and needs to play in an offense that recognizes that. Inside, the Kings have Domantas Sabonis, an impressive offensive player with a varied game, but not a player who fits well with the style of defense Brown has employed in the past.
Thus, the Kings find themselves in the awkward position of having hired a coach who the team hopes will change his approach here in his 23rd year working as a coach in the NBA in some capacity. Brown has spent the past six seasons as Golden State’s assistant coach and, as often happens, the Kings are hoping some of the magical offensive elixirs that mark the Warriors’ success have rubbed off on Brown. We’ve seen that aspiration in the past, with the two coaches the Kings employed last season – Luke Walton and Alvin Gentry.
Both saw their credentials boosted working as Kerr’s senior assistant with the Warriors. Neither brought any Golden State enchantment with them to later head coaching jobs. Walton went 166-241 in six seasons with the Lakers and Kings after serving as Kerr’s lieutenant, and Gentry went 199-266 in six years with the Pelicans and Kings.
Kerr spoke enthusiastically about Brown on Monday. “I don’t even know where to start, what Mike has done for me, for this organization in his six years here. Just an incredible contribution. Amazing coach, amazing friend. And Sacramento made a great choice. Delighted for Mike and his family. It’s a loss for us but that’s how it should work. You want really talented people on your team who can come in and contribute, and have a great experience and hopefully learn and grow at the same time, and hopefully be able to advance their careers.
Key to personal and personal changes for Mike Brown
How far Brown can advance his career during his next tenure with the Kings will depend on two things. First, he must have learned and grown, as Kerr mentioned. Remember, LeBron James wanted Brown fired from Cleveland after the Cavs went 66-16 in 2008-09 because he felt Brown’s offense was too simplistic, too easy to defend in the playoffs. Thirteen years later, Brown needs to bring a bigger, more complex playbook to Sacramento, or bring in an offensive-minded assistant who can. He needs to be ready to run his team more, pick up the pace and take advantage of the young legs in the roster.
But second, it’s up to general manager Monte McNair to give Brown the kind of roster that can play the level of defense he wants to play. The Kings don’t have to give up their offensive aspirations to do so, and there’s defensive promise in the squad, assuming the team keeps Donte DiVincenzo and develops point man Davion Mitchell. Keeping Richaun Holmes healthy would also help.
No matter which coach the Kings hire, they would be in dire need of defensive help. They gave up 66.8% to shoot in the restricted area, 26and in the league according to NBA.com stats, and 37.2 percent from the 3-point line, 29and in the NBA. They don’t defend the rim, and they don’t defend the perimeter. They are poor at forcing turnovers (16and13.5 per game) and not very efficient on the counter-attack, where they average 18.4 points per game, 19and in the NBA.
These are the things Brown must seek to change. He will need the help of McNair, who must provide him with one or two best individual defenders. Brown will need to use a system that creates and takes advantage of more rotations with transition points.
More than that, he will have to change the approach he established in previous stops in Cleveland and LA. He will have to show that he learned a few things working with the Warriors, that he is not the same coach he was when his career ended. after one season of his second stint with the Cavaliers. Brown’s teams have always been slow, deliberate and defensive. This team must be fast, decisive and versatile. He has to get them there.