Insofar as he has coached the two most iconic players of the post-Jordan era, I had questions for Mike Brown. And the Warriors assistant, as a guest on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Podcast, was kind enough to answer.
Brown spent five seasons as head coach of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, reaching the playoffs all five seasons, once reaching the NBA Finals. Brown was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008-09, with James winning the MVP award that season and repeating in 2009-10, after which Brown was dismissed and James departed for Miami.
After a year out of the NBA, Brown in 2011 was hired by the Lakers for the monumental task of replacing Phil Jackson and coaching 2007-08 MVP Kobe Bryant. The team was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals in lockout-shortened 2012, and Brown was fired five games into the following season.
After another turn as Cleveland head coach (2013-14), Brown was out of coaching for two seasons before agreeing to join Steve Kerr’s staff with the Warriors.
Given his experience with James and Bryant, we were compelled to seek Brown’s opinions about Warriors All-Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
Brown on Curry, the reigning two-time MVP: “I don’t know how you guard him. He would put the fear of God in me if I were on another team. He does it all. He can score with the ball. He can score without the ball. He can score from all three levels. His pace is unbelievable. I don’t know if he ever gets tired.”
Brown on Durant, the 2014 MVP: “I don’t know if he likes to be called this, but he’s 7 feet. And if you’re 7 feet and you can handle the ball and shoot the ball the way he does, you can’t guard him. . . . He can post up. He can play pick-and-roll. He can shoot the 3. He can get to the rim. He can get to the free throw line. How do you want it, he can do it. When you couple all that stuff with him being 7 feet, he’s impossible to guard.”
Brown on Thompson: “He’s got the quickest, most highest release that I’ve ever seen when it comes to shooting the basketball. Most guys, you say ‘put it in the shooting pocket,’ which is probably someplace between your belly button and your chest. You don’t say that about Klay. Just, somehow, some way, get him the ball. Wherever he catches the ball, he’s going from that point straight into his shot, Even if the ball hits him about the top of his head. . . . He’s almost impossible to guard. You can’t take away his airspace, because he doesn’t need any airspace to shoot the ball.”
For the record, Brown’s choice for MVP is Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, whose two-way excellence pushed him ahead of the co-favorites, Rockets guard James Harden and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.