Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lakers whack Brown 5 games into season

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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Mike Brown on Friday after a 1-4 start to his second season in charge.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak announced the surprising move several hours before they hosted Golden State. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Lakers against the Warriors.

"This was a difficult and painful decision to make," Kupchak said. "Mike was very hard-working and dedicated, but we felt it was in the best interest of the team to make a change at this time. We appreciate Mike's efforts and contributions and wish him and his family the best of luck."

Los Angeles began the season with championship expectations after trading for centre Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash, adding two superstars alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

But the Lakers went 0-8 during the pre-season last month for the first time in franchise history before stumbling into the regular season with an 0-3 start, losing to Dallas, Portland and the Clippers. After finally beating Detroit last Sunday for their first win, the Lakers looked listless again in a loss at Utah on Wednesday.

The Lakers' 1-4 record is the worst in the Western Conference, and owner Jim Buss had seen enough of the coach he hired just 18 months earlier to replace 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson. Brown signed a four-year deal worth roughly US$18 million in May 2011.

"It's a pretty direct message to all of us," Gasol said while leaving the Lakers' shootaround Friday. "There's no messing around. It's time for all of us to step it up."

While Lakers fans had reacted with their usual panic whenever the 16-time NBA champions lose a few games in a row, Kupchak and Buss publicly appeared to stand firmly behind Brown, the longtime Cleveland Cavaliers coach. Brown had pleaded for patience with his integration of several new players into his lineup while everybody learned a new offence.

"I have great respect for the Buss family and the Lakers' storied tradition, and I thank them for the opportunity they afforded me," Brown said in a statement issued by the Lakers. "I have a deep appreciation for the coaches and players that I worked with this past year, and I wish the organization nothing but success as they move forward."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 C4

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