Mitch Kupchak on Coaching Decision

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took questions after Mike Brown’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon. Below is a transcription of what Kupchak had to say, including his statement to introduce Brown:

Opening Statement:
Kupchak: I’d like to address the time line about the hiring of our coach. Unfortunately, in the last week or two there were a lot of inaccuracies reported about the process, so I think it’s important that I share with you exactly what took place. Our season ended on a Sunday, and that week, ownership — Jim Buss, Dr. Jerry Buss — and I decided to take a week and let things settle down a bit. Unfortunately, we were behind a little bit on the coaching search. Our season ended three weeks later than a lot of the other teams, and a lot of (those) teams had coaching vacancies. The interview process for those teams had already begun. After a week, we decided to get the process moving. During that week, I received a lot of phone calls. Our coach had announced a year ago that this would be his last year, so my phone, despite the fact our season ended on a Sunday, my phone was ringing off the hook for a week. I compiled a list of names, I interviewed several was of those people informally, and a week later, ownership (and I) sat down and decided to interview three people. Obviously, one of them was Mike Brown, the other was Brian Shaw and the third one we have not announced but I think you know who it is. Each interview with ownership lasted two to three hours, and they were done in great detail. At the end of that process, we felt no reason to delay with our announcement, and we selected Mike Brown as our coach for this team going forward. The decision was based partly on the interview, which we felt went very, very well. It was also made on (Brown’s) body of work as a coach, five years as a head coach of a high profile team with great success in Cleveland, Coach of the Year voted on by members of the media, and certainly his pedigree as a basketball coach. Being a player, working from the bottom up with coaches like Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Bernie Bickerstaff, coaches that are very well respected in this league. What I’d like to do at this time is announce and introduce the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mike Brown.

Q: On if he was surprised by some of the initial reaction to Brown’s hiring:
Kupchak: Nothing really surprises me. When there was a lot of media attention that didn’t look positive, I was getting messages from coaches in the NBA telling me that we had a great hire. Not that I don’t respect the opinion of the media, but a lot of times, the media is driven by other variables. For example, my office, in the morning when I come in after a series ends, my light’s on on my phone and I’ve got a bunch of mail on my desk, and it’s all negative. People that are positive don’t take the time to write a letter saying how happy they are, or call and leave a message on the phone saying how happy they are. Negative sells, to some degree. It’s also hard to follow in the footsteps of somebody like Phil Jackson. I know that myself. Our season did not end on a positive note. We lost a Hall of Famer for a coach and we bring in a coach that people on the West (coast) aren’t as familiar with as people on the East (Coast) are, so there’s gonna be some criticism. So I’m never really completely surprised. We were very aggressive with how we handled informal and formal interviews. Once we felt comfortable with a person, we moved quickly.

Q: On the timetable of Brown being hired:
Kupchak: I think everybody seems to be forgetting that we’ve been looking for a coach since last summer. It’s not like Phil Jackson decided to leave four weeks ago, and all of a sudden we had to hire a coach. From time to time during the season, I met with ownership and talked about what kind of a coach we looked to replace Phil with. Although at the very end we always hoped that we won another championship and we could talk him back into returning, it was clear to me that he was not returning. You could say the process began a year ago, and if you look at it that way, it wasn’t a very short process at all. The other thing that I mentioned is we were behind a little bit. Teams that the playoffs ended three weeks before ours, they had begun the process. We knew who we wanted to interview. We had great interest. We knew we’d have no problem finding a good coach, and when we interviewed the candidates, we were most comfortable with Mike.

Q: On hiring Mike Brown as the coach:
Kupchak: First and foremost, we judged him on his body of work, which you could look back on his five years as a coach in Cleveland. He was a Coach of the Year, which my understanding is the media members voted on that. We felt his pedigree as a coach, no disrespect to anybody else, but he put in his time in Denver, he put in time in San Antonio, he put in time in Indiana, he put in time in Washington. And then he was a very successful head coach in Cleveland. And then lastly, as mentioned, the interview went really, really, well. Based on that information, we decided to hire Mike Brown.

Q: On being aware that other teams were hiring head coaches, and if that could have impacted the timetable:
Kupchak: We were aware of the other openings. It took three weeks to come to who we wanted to hire as a coach and we had the people on our radar that we felt were people that we wanted to interview. We didn’t want to interview anybody more. I had several informal interviews. Certainly, the process could have gone on for another two to three weeks. But if you find your guy and we all agreed on him as our guy, we made a decision to move quickly.

Q: On whether Brown was on the team’s radar last offseason when Phil Jackson said he wasn’t sure about returning:
Kupchak: Well, first of all, I always felt like Phil was going to come back, so we didn’t have a year jump on it like we did this year. And we’re obviously very aware of Mike’s success in Cleveland. Five years, averaged 55 wins, that’s great success. I look at our roster and I look at the roster in Cleveland, I like our roster better. I’m biased. So I think he did a heck of a job, (and) I think our roster is better. So we knew he did a good job in Cleveland, but when you look at another team’s coach, you don’t normally say, “I want to steal that coach.” Because he was still employed at the time.

On whether Brown’s relationship with Kobe Bryant?
Kupchak: I think that’s incredibly important to have a really solid relationship with your best player. I do. I think that’s a very important distinction. I think (Brown is) about winning and I think Kobe’s about winning. If we win, I don’t think there’s gonna be a problem. And they may not always see eye-to-eye. They may not get along greatly. But if we win, Kobe’s gonna be happy. We’re gonna be happy. And Mike’s gonna be happy. It sounds like our coach is going to hold players accountable. Quite frankly, I think it’s a breath of fresh of air to have a change like this. There are natural tendencies when you have a coach for 11 years. You kind of get set in your ways a little bit and I think although they may have a great relationship, I think it’s gonna be different. But I know Mike wants to get along with (Kobe). Kobe’s most important thing is to win.