When reading through this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, I came across something that made me scratch my head. The NBA Finals and Ohio State football scandal are obviously huge stories, but what was also eyebrow-raising was a quote from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak in Dan Patrick’s section of the magazine.
Patrick noted, as did others, that hiring current Lakers assistant Brian Shaw to replace the retired Phil Jackson seemed like “the logical” move. Instead, the team hired former Cleveland coach Mike Brown, and Kupchak explained why to Patrick.
“It’s not that we chose not to hire Brian because he’s not qualified,” the GM reportedly said. “Our feeling going into it was that we needed a new voice. The old staff had been with us for 11 years.”
I found this explanation very strange. The “old staff” Kupchak refers to, which arrived with Jackson in 1999, “only” won 5 NBA championships and seven conference titles. Why the need to distance yourself from this era?
In some instances, of course, teams need to separate themselves from a past regime. The Detroit Lions, for example, needed to distance themselves as much as possible from Matt Millen’s disastrous term running the team. The same thing goes for the Mets who had been led into the ground by Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya.
However, the case of the Lakers and Phil Jackson is hardly analogous to these examples.
None of this is to say that Brown is not qualified for the Lakers job, as he is a former NBA Coach of the Year and Eastern Conference champion. That said, if Kupchak is taken at his word and Brown was hired primarily to bring “a new voice” to a team that was already highly successful, the move strikes me as change for the sake of change.