Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Kupchak: Mike’s a good man and very hard working – maybe one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever been around. The bottom line is that the team was not winning at the pace that we expected this team to win and we didn’t see improvement. We wish Mike (Brown) well and we’re sorry it ended this way. We’ve decided to move a different direction and make a change. For tonight’s game, Bernie Bickerstaff will be the acting head coach for the Lakers until we begin the process to search for a new head coach.
Q: On when the decision was made to relieve Brown of his duties and if there was any input from the players:
Kupchak: No input from the players that I’m aware of. Yesterday afternoon, last evening and this morning was the final determination of the decision.
Q: On whether he’s looking for a coach for the next couple years or for the long haul:
Kupchak: I think that would be one in the same. We’re not looking five or 10 years down the road. This team was built to contend this year. There’s no guarantee this team can win a championship, but we feel they can be deeply in the hunt. We also are aware that players are under contract for another year or two, and players are getting older, so our feeling is that we can contend at this level for a couple years. That’s our focus right now.
Q: On the limited coaching options:
Kupchak: It’s certainly a possibility that you go to another team. I think the bigger possibility is that you look to another team for an assistant coach. Clearly, great coaches in this league that have jobs would not be let out of their existing contracts with their team, so that’s not really a realistic possibility. There is a remote possibility that you look at assistants in a league, and of course, teams at that point would probably not stand in the way of a coach advancing his career. I think it’s more likely that we’ll look to coaches that are presently unemployed.
Q: On how long the search will last:
Kupchak: The sooner, the better. We don’t have a timetable, quite frankly, because this happened so quickly. The reality is you can’t call around and gauge coaches’ interests in this job. In the fraternity that exists, a coach wouldn’t say he has interest as long as somebody has the job. We didn’t even begin a search, but we do have a list that we put together, and we’ll go through that list in an orderly fashion.
Q: On the thought process of not allowing Brown a little more time to coach:
Kupchak: It’s really no different on what I touched on. You can argue: ‘Was last season a part of the process? Was the preseason a part of the process?’ After five games, we felt we weren’t winning and we weren’t seeing any improvement, and we made a decision. Maybe it would have changed a month down the road or three months down the road. But with this team, we didn’t want to wait three months and then find out it wasn’t going to change.
Q: On Brown’s system for the players:
Kupchak: There’s a defensive system and offensive system. That’s how you handle players. We did struggle to score and we introduced a new offense. To some degree, it was unfair to be categorized as the Princeton offense. It really wasn’t the Princeton offense; there were derivatives of the Princeton offense; there was a lot more mixed into it. But it was a system. The success I think Mike was hoping for didn’t come about very quickly, and as I mentioned, we had to make a quick decision.
Q: On if the move was made out of panic:
Kupchak: It wasn’t made out of panic. We were aware of this team’s progress through training camp and through the beginning of the season. Only yesterday did we come to the decision to make a change. Obviously everybody in this room knows we went 0-8 in preseason, which doesn’t mean a whole lot, but we’re 1-4 now. So it’s not like this came out of nowhere. It’s something that’s out there that we’ve been talking about internally. After our game against Utah, we came to this conclusion last night and early this morning to make a change.
Q: On the status of the rest of the coaching staff:
Kupchak: (The assistant coaches) will be there tonight. Beyond that, who knows. We have no immediate plans to make any changes in the next day or two.
Q: On the age and injury of players, and whether Brown’s tendency to work the players was a factor:
Kupchak: It’s really simple. It’s wins and losses, and Mike knows that. We’ve talked about that many times over the last year and a half. The fact we didn’t see progress played a part as well.
Q: On whether the team showed enough emotion playing:
Kupchak: I think there was plenty of emotion. They played hard and I saw a lot of frustration, and clearly there was a lot of emotion. Everybody cares, so I don’t think that was a problem.
Q: On whether any players lost Brown in this process:
Kupchak: Nothing from a player. We saw frustration and not a great deal of frustration, but there was some that we were seeing. But really, it came down to ownership and management – looking at the record, looking at the improvement level and wondering a month or two or three down the road if we’d be in the same spot.
Q: On what factored into this decision:
Kupchak: Without going through each game and each practice session, we’re 1-4, and cumulatively, we didn’t see any improvement that we had hoped to see.
Q: On reaching out to Phil Jackson:
Kupchak: When there’s a coach like Phil Jackson – one of the all-time greats – and he’s not coaching, you have to be negligent to be not aware that he’s out there. We’re putting together a list and an attack plan. We have not reached out to anybody at this time.
Q: On the qualities and philosophies they’re looking for from the next coach:
Kupchak: I think we’d like to see something the players can pick up on a little bit quicker. As I mentioned, I’m not sure we have the time to implement something complex. We want to start winning games and find out how good we really are. Certainly I’d think we’d look to an experienced coach.
Q: On how much of a factor played into the fact that Dwight Howard is a free agent next year:
Kupchak: It’s not something that was discussed among the three decision makers. We know (Dwight Howard) is a free agent this summer. You want to make the experience for him as good as possible. But we have a lot of other people we’re trying to please as well. We have a lot of fans and a lot of players, so it’s not just about one person.
Q: On the defensive shortcomings and how much played into the decision:
Kupchak: The two main reasons to making a change was the win-loss record and the fact that we didn’t see improvement. I guess we didn’t see a consistent performance … but we couldn’t seem to put together a consistent string of offensive and defensive performances.
Q: On what Bernie Bickerstaff and what his staff will run:
Kupchak: That’s a question for Bernie and we’ll find out tonight. He and I sat down for half an hour or 45 minutes and we basically had the same discussion I’m having with everybody today, and how we came to this decision. He understands our concerns and I’ll expect he’ll make some changes – maybe keep things a little simpler tonight. But you can’t change everything in a six-hour time period.
Q: On his assessment of Brown coaching here:
Kupchak: It was an incomplete evaluation. What he went through last year really wasn’t fair – making a trade that fell apart, one of the players was moved on (Lamar Odom) and the other player was scarred for a complete season (Pau Gasol). Then we made a trade as we approached the trade deadline to get a younger, ball handling point guard, and we did no worse than we did the year before. On top of that, it’s a strike-shortened season, so on top of that, it’s difficult to give a coach a grade.
Q: On if the players were having trouble grasping certain aspects of the new system:
Kupchak: It was a little odd. It’s a complex offense. When we introduced the Triangle, it seemed like it was decades ago. There was the same degree of skepticism on the players’ face, so there were some similarities. It certainly didn’t come about quickly. In fact, I never thought we got to the point where the offense was flowing. You’d see some flashes of it, but we never had a consistent flow throughout of the course of a game. They either weren’t getting it or it was going to take too long for them to get it, and we weren’t willing to find out which of the two it was.
Q: On how the team was assembled and if this offense fits those pieces:
Kupchak: Obviously we’re making a change, so we’re not completely comfortable with a couple different facets with the team and the way it was coached. Coaches make decisions going into the season and they’re very aware of the decisions they make … It’s hard to say to sit here and predict how the season would have turned out if we had a full season. It could have turned out just fine, but we weren’t willing to take that chance.
Q: On Pau Gasol thinking the coaching change was a wake up call for the players:
Kupchak: That’s not a part of what we’re trying to do, but obviously, it’s going to have that effect. I addressed the players and I made it very clear: we get evaluated on winning. Maybe a player would take it that way.
Q: On if there will be player input in the hiring of a next coach:
Kupchak: Maybe. We do have veterans on this team … Perhaps a coach or two we’re considering, we’ll run it past – not for their approval, but ‘tell us about this person.’ That’s not something we’ve decided to do yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Q: On whether Bickerstaff or Eddie Jordan will be candidates for the job:
Kupchak: We don’t have a coach to replace Mike right now, but we do have an interim coach. There’s no guarantee, although I think it’s an attractive job, and I think we’ll get a coach. But if we don’t get the coach we want, and Bernie’s doing a great job, crazy things happen in this league. Going into it, and the way I explained it to Bernie was that’s not the plan, but certainly it’s a possibility.