If you want to win an NBA award in a unanimous vote, it helps to be associated with the Golden State Warriors. After six seasons as a Warriors assistant coach, Mike Brown won Coach of the Year in his inaugural season with the Sacramento Kings - and he won every first place vote.
Hey! There he is! That man right there. Coach of the Year. By unanimous vote. Congratulations, Mike Brown. pic.twitter.com/2SScqcnqWg— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) April 19, 2023
Look, if you bring the Sacramento Kings back to the playoffs after 17 years, everyone is voting for you for Coach of the Year. Especially when the Kings got the three seed and home-court advantage, which has been quite an advantage indeed during the first two games of their first-round series with the Warriors. (We are of course talking about their ability to kick out Warriors lucky charm E-40.)
Steph Curry was the league’s first unanimous MVP in 2016, so there’s something about the association with the Warriors that makes voters agree on a winner. Clearly winning gets in your blood. Just ask former Warriors who won championships, like JaVale McGee, Patrick McCaw, and Quinn Cook.
He’s the first unanimous winner, and he’s also the first winner of the Red Auerbach Trophy, named after the legendary Celtics coach. If he were still around, Auerbach would probably think “light the beam” refers to a brand of victory cigar he hadn’t heard of.
Brown is known for his defensive acumen, masterminding the Warriors’ defense last year on their way to a title. He had top-five defenses multiple years in Cleveland, but in Sacramento, he’s put together the NBA’s top-scoring offense that’s also No. 1 in offensive rating. Last year. they were 25th in offensive rating.
He’s also coaxed All-Star performances out of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, seen Keegan Murray set the rookie record for three-pointers, gotten a career year out of Kevin “Red Velvet” Huerter, and done the impossible: Getting the Kings respect from officials.
Brown has pointed out the Kings getting shafted on calls politely.
"I just want, at the end of the game, somebody to step up and make the right call. A guy gets hit on the arm shooting a 3, it's a foul. A guy take 6 steps or 4 steps, it's a travel. We just want an opportunity to win in overtime." -Mike Brown to reporters at Oracle— James Ham (@James_HamNBA) November 8, 2022
And somewhat less politely.
Brown has managed to inspire his team to excellence, while not letting them rest on their laurels either. In late March, the Kings got a huge win against the New York Knicks on TNT, but Brown called out his players for sloppy play and allowing 23 offensive rebounds. Brown isn’t content with being the best Kings team in decades, admittedly a low bar.
The Kings coach had to wait far too long for his next job opportunity after the Cavaliers let him go after his second go-round with the team in 2013-14. Brown took Cleveland to the Finals in 2007 at age 37, and had seasons of 66 and 61 wins. Then he led the Lakers to a Pacific Division title and the third seed in the West in 2011-12, after taking over for Phil Jackson. He got fired after only five games the next season, even though Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard were all injured to start the year. Without Brown, the team finished seventh and got swept in the first round.
It took Brown eight more years to get another shot at being a head coach, and this time, Sacramento’s eternal strategy of hiring old Warriors assistant coaches finally paid off.
His old team has been effusive with praise for Brown, who spent six seasons as Steve Kerr’s right-hand man. He went undefeated in place of Steve Kerr during the 2017 playoffs, and subbed in for him after Kerr tested positive for COVID-19 last year. But Brown isn’t getting complacent either.
Mike Brown is on to the Warriors pic.twitter.com/I2iA9BYMdQ— Kings on NBCS (@NBCSKings) April 14, 2023
“They want to kick my ass,” Brown told reporters. “It’s a set up, and I’m not falling for it. Screw you guys until this is over!”
Thanks to Brown’s coaching and a very poorly-timed Draymond Green foot stomp, this might be over far earlier than the Warriors expect.