There is a scenario in which former Lakers coach Phil Jackson would consider returning for a third stint with the team, sources said late Friday, but it will require executive VP Jim Buss once again relinquishing the organizational reins and this time handing them to Jackson, rather than back to GM Mitch Kupchak.One source described the possibility of Jackson returning, should a suitable offer be made, as strong.The Lakers are in need of a new head coach after firing Mike Brown Friday morning, the timing of which, if not the decision itself, completely blindsided Brown, a source said. The abruptness and timing of the decision five games into Browns first full season was credited by one source to Lakers legend and former part-owner Magic Johnson finally winning a turf war with the younger Buss and convincing Lakers patriarch, Jerry Buss, that Brown must go. Johnson, the source said, would like to see former Laker and current Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw succeed Brown.Johnson, an ESPN and ABC analyst, has been repeatedly critical of Brown and last year announced that Brown would be fired if the Lakers failed to get past the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers won the best-of-seven series, 4-3, before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the next round, 4-1, but Kupchak dismissed any validity to Johnsons remarks.A source close to Johnson, meanwhile, said talk of him being involved in Browns ouster now was categorically untrue.Jackson, while romantically involved with Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, has long had a strained relationship with her brother Jim. When Jacksons last contract with the team expired following the 2010-11 season, Jim was granted authority over the teams basketball operations by his father, Jerry, and seemed committed to shifting away from the teams methodology under Jackson, including his Triangle offense.That offense almost assuredly would return if Jackson were granted authority andor Shaw, a long-time assistant coach of Jackson during his Lakers tenure, were hired. Sources say there is a scenario in which both Jackson and Shaw would be hired, with Shaw as the head coach mentored by Jackson.Jackson proposed a similar arrangement to the Portland Trail Blazers at one point last summer, sources say, with former assistant Kurt Rambis as his head-coach proteg and Jackson overseeing basketball operations, but the Blazers declined.Former Knicks coach Mike DAntoni, former Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy, who has coached both the Lakers and Clippers, are among the Lakers list of candidates, a source said. DAntoni just had knee replacement surgery last week and the recovery time has been projected as six weeks, but a source close to DAntoni said that an accelerated rehabilitation program could potentially cut that time in half.DAntoni, of course, would be reunited with point guard Steve Nash, who became a two-time league MVP with the Phoenix Suns in DAntonis up-tempo system and Nash, a source said, would welcome playing for him again.The challenge in returning to Jacksons Triangle offense is that it would not suit Nash nearly as well as DAntonis pick-and-roll heavy system and it often takes a full season for a team to master it. Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks are the only hold-overs from the last time Jackson coached the team, and neither Blake nor Peace were particularly effective in it.
OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.
As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.
The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.
“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”
Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.
Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.
Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.
“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.
“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”
Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.
Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.
It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.
“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.
“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”
OAKLAND -- After arriving in Oakland in the wee hours Tuesday morning, the Warriors took the day off, went through a light practice Wednesday and will take another day off Thursday.
Not really, when the next game is at least four days away.
The semi-lax scheduling isn’t the decision of acting head coach Mike Brown. It’s not even the decision of head coach Steve Kerr, who was not at practice Wednesday and remains out indefinitely. It’s a common sense call that was made between the two men, with players and staffers on board.
“If you can sweep every series,” Kevin Durant said after practice, “then that’ll be perfect.”
This is one of the perks of sweeping a first-round opponent. By eliminating the Trail Blazers in four games and with their next opponent undetermined, the Warriors are able to balance work and rest.
“With this group here,” Brown said, “the continuity that the nucleus has and how intelligent the guys are, with the big-time veterans we’ve brought in, we feel that rest for their bodies and mentally (are) more important than coming in here and having practice on a daily basis.”
They also have a couple guys recovering from injuries. Forward Matt Barnes (right foot/ankle bone bruise) has been out two weeks, and guard Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain/hand contusion) has missed the past nine days. Both, however, are expected to be available for the next series.
The soonest that would be is Sunday against Utah, which owns a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers and can close it out Friday in Salt Lake City. If the Clippers win and push the series to seven games, the Warriors would then open against the Clippers-Jazz winner on May 2.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have no choice but to prepare for both, with plenty of time to do so.