By Beth Harris
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Phil Jackson is retired, the triangle offense is out, and Mike Brown is in. And the Los Angeles Lakers are still Kobe Bryant’s team.
Brown made it clear May 31 during his introduction as Jackson’s successor that Bryant’s role won’t change under his regime. He said his first meeting with the superstar who owns five NBA championships “went very well.”
“This is still his team. We’ll make sure that he’ll have the ball in the sweet spots that he likes,” Brown said. “He has a great understanding of my vision and he’s onboard.”
Bryant, Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum had publicly supported longtime Lakers assistant Brian Shaw in his bid to replace Jackson, who retired after Dallas swept the two-time defending champions out of the second round.
Besides meeting with Bryant and talking on the phone with his wife, Vanessa, Brown said he’s talked to Fisher and his wife, Pau Gasol, Bynum and Ron Artest.
Public reaction to Brown’s hiring has been mixed.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I respect that,” he said. “Winning will cure all of that.”
General manager Mitch Kupchak said he, owner Jerry Buss and Jim Buss, the owner’s son and an executive with the team, interviewed three people for the unenviable job of following Jackson, who owns the most titles in NBA history.
Besides Shaw and Brown, Rick Adelman also was in the running.
The elder Buss said that initially he didn’t think Brown “would be the man.”
“Then when he started talking to us, he said how he would handle this team. He was very prepared,” Buss said. “I liked his X’s and O’s, his visions for our future. Very few people understand that our job is to try and remain on top forever. He likes that philosophy. I like that.”
Shortly before his introduction, Brown signed a four-year deal worth roughly $18 million. He has yet to hire a coaching staff.
Matt Barnes was the only player on hand for Brown’s introduction at the Lakers’ practice facility, stopping after a rehab session nearby.
“Coming here is tough. He’s coming to LA, one of the biggest markets, one of the best teams in sports history,” Barnes said. “To carry himself the way he did, and answered all the questions and didn’t really shy away from anything just showed a lot that he’s ready and hope he’s got his thick skin.”
Barnes told reporters he will exercise his $1.91 million option to return to the team next season. He was limited this season after undergoing right knee surgery.
Brown and Kupchak have yet to discuss the team’s aging roster, although the new coach doesn’t expect a major overhaul.
“I still believe this core group of guys can go get it done,” Brown said.
The 41-year-old Brown led Cleveland to the 2007 NBA finals and went 272-138 with the Cavaliers, becoming the most successful coach in franchise history while compiling the league’s best regular-season record in each of his last two seasons.
He got fired last year before LeBron James packed his bags for Miami. Brown had been working as an ESPN analyst.
Brown knows there will be endless comparisons and references to Jackson, and he’s ready for it.
“I’m not sure what size shoe he wears, but I’m not here to fill his shoes,” he said. “I’m here to help this team and organization carve our own path to success.”
That includes dumping the famed triangle offense that Jackson employed to such success in both Los Angeles and Chicago. Unlike Jackson, Brown may call more timeouts, too.
“We’re not going to run the triangle offense, but we will have bits and pieces of it that will be incorporated,” said Brown, adding that his offense will be tailored to 7-footers Bynum and Gasol, similar to what was run for big men Tim Duncan and David Robinson during his time as an assistant in San Antonio.
Brown was on the Spurs’ staff when they won the 2003 NBA title.
Brown ticked off his top three essentials on both offense and defense.
“If they don’t buy in right away, they will,” he said. “If they don’t, there’s going to be a problem because I’m going to hold people accountable.”
Brown said he wants to foster a culture that includes trust, communication, defense, a no-excuses mentality, a family environment, and a determined work ethic.
“As long as the group is willing, which it sounds like it is, we’ll get it done,” he said. “We want to be at the top forever.”