Fired twice in Cleveland, Mike Brown builds a winner in Sacramento
The Cavs have returned to the NBA playoffs and so has a familiar face and two-time coach in Cleveland. Mike Brown has led the Sacramento Kings to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, ending the longest postseason drought in NBA history
Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto says Brown has had a unique NBA coaching journey.
Brown, who played college basketball but never turned pro, started out as a video coordinator and scout with the Denver Nuggets in 1992. After working his way up to associate coach with the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, he got his big break as head coach of the Cavs in 2005. He was 35-years-old, becoming the second youngest coach in the league.
When Brown arrived in Cleveland, the Cavs had missed the playoffs in LeBron James's first two NBA seasons and had not made the playoffs since 1998.
“So, they did make the playoffs and he coached here for five years, the last five years of LeBron's first tenure here. In fact, his last year, they went 61-21, and he got fired because LeBron left and the whole thing was falling apart back then,” Pluto said.
In 2011, Brown succeeded Phil Jackson as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He lasts one year and five games and he gets fired,” Pluto said.
After that, Brown could be found on the football field, helping to coach the JV team.
“His son, Elijah, was playing basketball at St. Ed's, but [Brown] likes football. He wasn't even a head coach. He was just one of the guys out there. He did that for a couple of years while being paid by the Lakers not to coach.”
In 2013 came his second stint with the Cavs, but it lasted just one season.
“That's when LeBron James comes back. Mike Brown exits for a second time. Now he's being paid not to coach for a couple of years by the Cavaliers,” Pluto said.
In 2016, Brown gets a phone call from another familiar name in Cleveland sports, Steve Kerr, who played for the Cavs from 1989-1992. Kerr is the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
“He brings in Mike Brown as his top assistant. And guess who the Cavaliers keep playing all the time in the NBA Finals? The Golden State Warriors with Steve Kerr. Steve had a couple of years where he had some significant health problems and Mike would then take over and coach even some playoff games against Cleveland.”
In 2022, Brown got another head coaching opportunity.
“The Sacramento Kings, the sad sack of the NBA, is looking for yet another coach. Why don’t we try Mike Brown? So, he hopped in the car, went down the road, gets the job in Sacramento with a young team, and he turned around and won 48 games, got him in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. And he's playing right now, Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors.”
Pluto says Brown’s journey is one of patience and perseverance.
“We often want these coaches to be finished products immediately. We don't often think that about young players. And what happened was this -- When Mike Brown was a coach with Cleveland, both times, he was very good defensively, but his offense sometimes would look prehistoric. [He] takes over Sacramento and he took all this stuff that he learned from Steve Kerr about ball movement, motion playing at a faster pace and at the age of 53, he has a much better, well-rounded coach and he's out on the verge of knocking his mentor, Steve Kerr, right out of the playoffs.”