Golden State Warriors lead assistant coach Mike Brown is reportedly interviewing with the New York Knicks for their open head coaching position. The news was first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
Brown has been open about how much he enjoys his current role with the Warriors, but also about how excited he would be at another shot to lead a team.
He’s been an NBA head coach on three different occasions, and got the short end of the stick quite a bit during those tenures. His first chance came in the 2005-06 season, when the Cleveland Cavaliers hired him to lead their squad in LeBron James’ third season.
He coached the Cavs for five years, which included an NBA Finals appearance in 2006-07, and a 66-win season (followed by a Coach of the Year win) in 2008-09.
Then came his first tough break. After the Cavs had a disappointing second-round exit in 2010, following a 61-win season, Cleveland fired Brown in the hopes of appealing to James, who was a free agent. But James joined the Miami Heat, leaving Brown as the loser in a failed marketing pitch.
After a year away from the league, Brown took a head coaching gig with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2011-12 season, where he had the unenviable task of replacing Phil Jackson. The Lakers did well in his first year, going 41-25 in the lockout-shortened season, and getting eliminated in the second round, just as they had the year before.
But expectations for year two were sky high after the team added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and planned on making another title run behind those two and their long-standing core of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. As a result, the leash was short. The Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason (not that that should mean much, but the optics were poor), and after a 1-4 start, Brown was fired.
He was once again something of a merciless sacrificial lamb — even after hiring Mike D’Antoni a few weeks later, the Lakers barely snuck into the playoffs, and were swept in the first round.
But he jumped right back on the horse the next year, when the Cavs re-hired him for the 2013-14 season, with ownership admitting it was a mistake to fire him the first time around. And yet, the same thing happened. With James once again approaching free agency, the Cavs fired him after one year, and sought to make a hiring that might appeal more to the superstar.
You could argue that Brown got the last laugh. He joined the Warriors bench for the 2016-17 season, replacing the departing Luke Walton. And in each of his first two years with the Warriors, he won a ring by beating the team that fired him twice — with James on their roster, no less.
And now he might get a fourth chance at sitting in the main seat on the bench. If so, he’d become the third Warriors assistant coach since Steve Kerr took over to get poached for a head coaching gig, joining Walton and Alvin Gentry.
That said, Brown seems like a very nice person, and I’m not sure I’d wish the dysfunction of the Knicks organization on him.
And with the Knicks head coaching job being in the news, it’s also worth remembering just how lucky the Warriors got in hiring Kerr, and how smart Kerr was in accepting the position. You may remember that at the time — prior to the 2014-15 season — it was assumed that Kerr would take a role with the Knicks. One of his mentors, Jackson, was an executive with New York, and most thought that that relationship, on top of the allure of one of the NBA’s most iconic teams, would make the decision easy for Kerr.
Instead, he surprised the basketball world by signing with Golden State, and while the relationship between the Warriors and Kerr has been smooth and glorious, the Knicks have had three head coaches and two interim coaches in that same time frame.
And soon they’ll have a fourth. It just might be someone from Kerr’s bench.