The look of love, it was not. When Kobe Bryant eyes seared a hole through the fiber of Mike Brown’s being, you knew the tapestry that binds coach to player had fully unraveled.
You’d witnessed it before. That look of disdain, that is. Think circa 2010 and simply substitute Bryant’s mad-mugging for that of LeBron James. Subject and target were in Cleveland back then, yet it was just as apparent the gig was up for Brown, who in yet another instance had clearly lost the will of his men. Thing is, LeBron beat his coach out of town and the Cavs’ have been dreadfully paying the price ever since.
Contracts and stipulations aside, the Lakers and owner Dr. Jerry Buss weren’t about to take any such chances. And so, Mike Brown is now gone, setting the stage for renewed hope and resolve to again spring eternal in the land-of-make-believe.
Long ago, Bryant's upgraded, refined, approach to things had signaled a return to bottom-line basics this season. In Laker Land that translates to not just more victories, but accumulating them in such a way the team takes on a style all of its own. Losing 14 of their last 15 games under Brown (including playoffs and the preseason) hardly qualified as the ticket. No way the coach could survive in L.A. peddling what wouldn’t even sell in Charlotte.
In fact, given the make-up of the Lakers built to win-now-investment, the debate of if Brown would or even should have survived seems as crazed as the notion that any coach, on any level, would take ownership over a team composed of the game’s most athletic post man, most skilled two-guard and still one of its most creative floor-generals and tie them to a style of play where they walked the rock up the floor each and every time they touched it. You don’t need Mike Tyson to tell you just how ludicrous that seems.
The fact that Phil Jackson was available and rumored to be open to the prospect of reuniting with Kobe only hastened the need and clamor for Brown’s ouster. There’s work to be done in La La Land, from rescuing a season far more on the brinks than any one should be at such an early stage to Kobe now feeling desperate for an unforeseen shot at redemption stemming from the way things played out during Jackson’s disappointing swan song season of 2011.
"Phil, obviously, you guys know how I feel about Phil," Bryant told ESPN. "The one thing that's kind of always bothered me is that his last year, I wasn't able to give him my normal self because I was playing on one leg," That's always kind of eaten away at me that the last year of his career; I wasn't able to give him everything I had."
However, fans (and Jackson, apparently) were shocked this morning to find that former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni has signed a 4-year-contract to lead Los Angeles. Bryant, however, is optimistic about the new leadership.
"I love PJ, but I'm very excited about D'Antoni," he told ESPN. Bryant idolized D'Antoni, then a star player himself, as a child growing up in Italy.
Considering that the new coach has a bit to prove himself after a less-than-impressive history in New York, this could be the recipe for a new formula of Kobe magic: the mega star restoring the now-underdog team to greatness.