Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown has been fired after a disappointing 1-4 start to the season, a source has told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne.
Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Lakers Friday night at home against the Warriors, a source tells ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.
The decision is in keeping with the Lakers “win now” mentality after acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in blockbuster trades this summer. Relieving Brown of his duties now also comes at a substantial cost as he was in just the second year of a four-year, $18 million deal. The final year of that contract was only partially guaranteed.
The Lakers have had a healthy Nash in the lineup for only 1½ of their five games so far thanks to a leg injury, while Howard has acknowledged that he’s still recovering from the back surgery that brought a premature end to his 2011-12 campaign and knocked him out of the London Olympics. Kobe Bryant has also been playing through a foot ailment.
The Lakers are off to the worst start in the Western Conference despite carrying the league’s largest payroll at just over $100 million, which would trigger an estimated luxury-tax bill at season’s end of nearly $30 million.
The team has also been trying to institute a form of the Princeton offense, a system that relies on reads and ball sharing in order to take some of the offensive load off Bryant. But the talented Lakers went 0-8 during the preseason for the first time in franchise history before stumbling into the regular season with an 0-3 start. After finally winning last Sunday, the Lakers looked listless again in a loss at Utah on Wednesday.
Not only did the new offense not appear to suit his players’ talents, the Lakers also played spotty defense, Brown’s specialty.
The Lakers reached the second round of the playoffs last season in Brown’s first year. The former Cleveland coach replaced Phil Jackson, the 11-time NBA champion.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson reacted to the firing on Twitter.
“Feel bad for Coach Mike Brown, who’s a great guy, but don’t think he was the right guy for the job in the first place,” he tweeted.
As for possible replacements, Johnson tweeted: “I’d love to see Phil Jackson or Brian Shaw. Wish Pat Riley was available.”