By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
It was an expected response by Mike Brown when he was asked about being hired by the Sacramento Kings after the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 101-98 in Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoffs series.
The six-year assistant coach for the Warriors was kind, calm, and respectful to reporters in San Francisco, showing what the city of Sacramento can glean from his character.
Brown said he will not deal with his new employer until the playoffs are complete.
“Just to be fair to their organization and our organization, right now I want to focus on this, and when that press conference comes, I’ll answer any question that you want me to answer,” said Brown, who was filling in as head coach for Steve Kerr, who is in NBA health and safety protocols.
Kings General Manager Monte McNair named Brown as the team’s new head coach May 9. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed, though it has been reported that Brown signed a four-year deal.
“Mike has consistently demonstrated his ability to lead winning teams throughout his long and successful coaching career,” McNair said in a written statement. “He has worked with some of the best players in the NBA and is one of the league’s premier defensive minds. I am excited to bring his extensive experience to Sacramento.”
Brown’s experience is a big plus. He has a 61% winning percentage as a head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and a short stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. His best days as a coach were with superstar LeBron James in Cleveland.
That said, McNair’s statement made it known that defense is one of the top reasons, if not the top, Brown was hired. The Kings consistently are among the NBA’s worst defensive teams, contributing to a league-record 16-year playoff drought.
Since the 2016-17 season, the Kings’ defensive rating has ranged from 111.1 to 117.2. According to basketball-reference.com, team defensive rating estimates points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Kings had their lowest defensive rating (99.7) in 2002-03. The team has not been under 100 in nearly 20 years.
In the Warriors-Grizzlies best-of-7 series, Golden State scored only 38 points in the first 24 minutes of Game 4 with Brown as the acting head coach. Significantly, the Grizzlies scored only 41 points in the half.
As of press time, Brown, 52, is 12-0 in the NBA playoffs when filling in for Kerr. After news broke that Brown beat out former Warriors coach Mark Jackson and former Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford for the gig, Kerr said the Kings made a “great choice.”
“What Mike has done for me, for this organization in his six years here … just an incredible contribution,” Kerr said before Game 4. “He’s an amazing friend and coach. (I’m) thrilled for Mike and his family.”
Brown’s teams qualified for the playoffs in six of his seven full seasons as a head coach with the Cavaliers (2005-10, 2013-14) and Lakers (2011-12), advancing past the first round in each appearance. He helped guide the Warriors to back-to-back titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
In 2007, Brown led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008-09 after guiding the Cavaliers to a franchise record of 66 wins.
Cleveland won at least 50 games in four of Brown’s first five seasons, including back-to-back 60-win campaigns in 2008-09 (66) and 2009-10 (61). During the 2011-2012 lockout-shortened season, Brown led the Lakers to a Pacific Division title and a 41-25 (62.1%) record.
Brown’s head coaching record of 347-216 (61.6%) over eight seasons is the ninth-best winning percentage in NBA history among those who have coached at least 500 games.
Before joining the Cavaliers in 2005, Brown was associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers for two seasons after three years as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs (2000-2003), where he also captured an NBA title.
Brown, who briefly lived in Wurzburg, Germany, as a child, began his career with the Denver Nuggets in 1992, spending five seasons as a video coordinator and scout before serving as an assistant under Bernie Bickerstaff in Washington beginning in 1997.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Brown is a graduate of the University of San Diego, where he played two seasons after spending two years at Mesa Community College.
Brown was the head coach of the Nigeria men’s national basketball team during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, held in August 2021. Kings forward Chemezi Metu also was on the Nigerian team with Brown.
“I’m really happy for Mike B,” Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said. “He is going to do great things for Sacramento.”