The Los Angeles Lakers elimination from the NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Orlando Magic firing Head Coach Stan Van Gundy on the same day left me with some interesting questions.
Will Dwight Howard stay in Orlando now that Van Gundy is gone? Will the Lakers keep Mike Brown on as head coach after a disappointing playoff exit? Where will Stan Van Gundy coach next season?
The scenario that I couldn’t get my mind off of is Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak jumping the gun and trying to make a coaching change. It’s no secret that Mike Brown is not a great offensive NBA head coach. His offensive sets and play calling are suspect under the best circumstances, and trying to convert a group of veterans who had been running Phil Jackson’s triangle offense for the last decade is hardly good circumstances.
I can’t possibly support firing Mike Brown after one season, especially when the playoff exit was to a legitimate championship contender, but I couldn’t help but wonder if a coach with a better offensive mind like Van Gundy would fare better with a group of dominate veterans like they have in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum spent the season fighting the system, the coaches, and each other. Surely Stan Van Gundy could reign in these guys.
But, really, is Stan Van Gundy any better than Mike Brown?
Mike Brown’s six year NBA head coaching career includes a 313-163 (66%) regular season record and a 47-36 (57%) playoff record while coaching a superstar – LeBron James in Cleveland and Kobe in LA – with one NBA Finals appearance.
Stan Van Gundy’s eight year career shows a 371-208 (64%) regular season record and a 48-39 (55%) playoff record while coaching a superstar – Dwayne Wade in Miami and Dwight Howard in Orlando – with one NBA Finals appearance. (Stan Van Gundy started the 2005-06 Miami Heat championship season, but was fired and replaced by Pat Riley after starting 11-10)
The perception has always been that Mike Brown wasn’t a balanced head coach and that Stan Van Gundy was a smart, accomplished basketball man. It seems pretty clear after doing some homework that Stan Van Gundy isn’t really an upgrade over Mike Brown. Comparable records, mirrored experience with petulant superstars, and similar failures on the big stage.
As different as these two coaches are while you’re watching the games happen, the results are the same. And unfortunately, the results aren’t good enough.