One day after the Warrior’s championship parade in San Francisco, Kings GM Monte McNair introduced former Golden State assistant and newly hired head coach Mike Brown at an afternoon press conference on Tuesday.
Alongside his front office counterpart, the new on-court leader had the opportunity to provide a glimpse into his vision for this team moving ahead and in the grand quest to not only end the 16-year playoff drought, but to also put a fifth championship ring on Brown’s hand— “one for the thumb” as James Ham put it.
Excited as he was, Brown acknowledged the fact that this will all be a process that runs its course over some amount of time. After having met the criteria of what McNair was looking for in a head coach, it was no surprise that Mike Brown held grasp of a detailed scheme to build the winning culture this franchise has been devoid of for so long.
Amid the overall project of turning things around in Sacramento, a primary point of interest was directed at building a foundation of success on the defensive end, where Brown has succeeded in his past coaching experience. This team has not finished in the top half of the league defensively since their last playoff appearance in 2006.
Even so, Mike Brown was effusive about both the potential and appeal that he feels surrounds this organization, not just in terms of the roster that De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis lead, but also the front office, the fans, and the facilities.
Overall, it was a press conference jam packed with enthusiasm and grins, projecting the image of an organization that’s getting their act together. It’ll be hard to say for sure if this franchise is turning it around until they actually demonstrate with hard results that they have, but this presser did offer a few things worth thinking about.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s introduction of coach Mike Brown.
This Will Be Brown and McNair’s Show
When the hiring process was reduced to three candidates nearly two months ago, it was really just down to two: Brown and Mark Jackson. Similarities and differences aside, the decision between the final pair of finalists was bound to suggest a lot about the power of decision-making in Sacramento.
Following reports, it was clear that Jackson was Ranadive’s “preferred” option while Brown was liked by McNair and the front office, so when the latter was hired, it was apparent that the direction of this franchise was being primarily steered by the basketball minds and not the owner and those loyal to him.
That impression was reiterated at the start of the press conference as McNair began by saying that, following a “robust” process, Brown was chosen because he perfectly fulfilled the GM’s three major criteria for the next head coach. The first was “successful head coaching experience.” Second was “the ability to build relationships across the organization.” And the third was a display of “leadership for everything we’re trying to do here.”
As McNair noted when asked later about whether there was a “definitive moment” that pointed to the right guy for the job, he simply said he found that Brown “checked all the boxes.”
Next season will carry a different feel not simply because there’s a new head coach with a ton of experience, but moreover because it’ll be led by the partnership of Monte McNair and the first head coach he’s gotten to hire.
More than just his first ever hire, by picking Brown, by deciding on the above three criteria as the main focus of the hiring process, McNair has once again shown his intention to deliver a manner of operation that differs from the recent years of his predecessors’ shortcomings. It’s similar to the new approach he brought to drafting, or the fact that, after years of talent being sent away from and/or leaving Sacramento, he made the aggressive move to attain it.
When was the last time the Kings hired a coach that checked all of the above boxes, especially in the era of the current ownership? At the time, Malone lacked experience, and Walton specifically lacked “successful” experience. George Karl and Dave Joerger, even before dealing with Ranadive, had been known to be abrasive personalities. Maybe interim head coach Alvin Gentry as a consolation prize, but even still, it was McNair who played a major part in hiring him and who set him up to be the plan B to Walton.
Not only is this McNair’s choice to hire Mike Brown, but this will be the first time in a while that Kings fans will be able to witness a team run by a GM-head coach tandem grounded in competence and experience.
In Trying to Establish a Winning Culture, Brown Has a Blueprint
To Mike Brown, “every organization… has a soul,” the strength of which dictates the success of that organization. Simply put, a strong soul “equates to a winning culture.”
Mike Brown described it as his job to strengthen this team’s soul and instill a winning culture in Sacramento. As hard of a task as it sounds, with his track record, he feels he’s experienced what “can get organizations over the top, not just in one year, but year in and year out.”
As such, he has a plan that focuses on three areas of focus.
First, Brown wants there “to be a vertical and horizontal alignment of trust within all the units of an organization.” Expanding on this, he clarified his ambition, characterizing the desired level of trust as “unattainable in most instances.”
Second, he noted the imperative for there “to be a set of values… that are led and upheld by the leadership of this organization,” and as the head coach, it starts with Brown
Third, he conveyed a necessity for there to be widespread “embracement of your role,” going on to say that throughout all aspects of the organization, people “will understand what their role is.”
As explained by the new coach, “if those three elements come together… at a high level, then we’ll have a winning culture here that’s sustainable and long lasting.”
The Pressure “Ain’t No Elephant”
Asked by Fox40’s Chris Tavarez about the pressure to end “the elephant in the room” that is the 16-year playoff drought, Brown was quick to address it head on.
“There ain’t no elephant in the room, you can speak on it,” the new hire said of the reality. “We’re gonna embrace that. … I’m coming here to win, so we’re going to embrace anything in front of us that talks about winning.”
For everyone involved, it’s clear that the primary objective for this franchise is to make the playoffs. It’s a seemingly straightforward yet steep task, and in order to follow through, there is a requirement for airtight confidence.
As evidenced by his response, Brown comes with enough self-assurance to not allow the shadow of 16 years of losing seasons to bother him. Perhaps more so than his response, the coach’s firsthand experience on championship teams has well acquainted him with some of the highest levels of pressure.
It’s not the NBA Finals, but figuring out a way to get a team to the playoffs after a long interval of bottom-dwelling brings plenty of intense demand to turn it around, and Brown is set on embracing it.
There’ll Be No Shortage of Defensive Preaching
Right after answering Tavarez’s question, Tony Harvey announced he was about “to speak on it,” referring to that playoff drought. In doing so, Harvey highlighted what he called “the black hole” for this Kings organization, which is defense, asking what Brown plans to do on that front.
Since Rick Adelman departed, and since the start of this wretched streak of missing the postseason began, the Kings have always had poor defensive teams. And in today’s NBA where it seems like nearly every team can just go on trading buckets back and forth, defense takes on an elevated level of importance.
When the coaching search narrowed to three candidates that underlined a focus on defense, that fact was clear. And Brown was probably the best of the three because he brings with him a track record of leading more than just good overall teams, but in nearly every instance, his teams finish among the league’s best defensive units.
In his organized manner, Brown answered Harvey’s question by describing another three-step plan centered around preaching communication, effort, and trust from the very start. In his words, if he can get the team to adhere to those three principles, then a good system can be applied to generate success.
Brown went on describing some of the guys on the Warriors that played a significant role in making them the second best defensive team this past year. Citing Steph Curry, Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins, Brown made the point that pretty much anyone can be a plus defender and contribute to an effective defensive performance if communication, effort, and trust are allowed to blossom.
Beyond having the experience, he sees some potential already on the team that can meet him half way in this effort. With him in the room, Brown was sure to note the defensive potential he knows De’Aaron Fox has, describing how he was impressed by the speedy guard on that end of the floor back when he watched him play in high school.
Defense is vital, and nobody knows that better than Mike Brown, and he’s determined to establish an identity that upholds that, even as he admits it’ll be “a process.”
For Brown, This Job Has Appeal
If one could only describe Mike Brown at this press conference with a single word, there’s a decent chance that word would be enthusiastic.
After being asked about leaving the Warriors job—which has more stability than any NBA job out there, and enough to pull Atkinson out of his commitment to the Hornets—Brown highlighted his positivity on coming to a franchise whose disposition is pretty much the polar opposite.
“Shoot,” he said at one point, grabbing the lapels of his jacket. “Look, I got on a gray suit, I got a purple shirt, purple and black pockets square. My girl’s got on a purple shirt. You gotta be able to feel the excitement coming from me about being here.”
Throughout the press conference he made it known that the job in Sacramento had appeal. In fact, he seemed particularly optimistic about what could be dubbed the four F’s: the fans, facilities, front office, and Fox and Sabonis.
Brown reminisced about memories that illustrate the kind of fervent support this fanbase can provide, making note of the cowbells that rung shrilly in his ear. Now he says he’d “love to hear them cowbells every game.” That combined with the absence of winning for this loyal base, Brown admitted he is adamant about making this city “explode.”
Maybe mentioned the most of the four, Brown expressed what a marvel the Golden 1 Center and the practice facilities are, describing what this franchise offers as “world class.”
There was also an expression of the eagerness he feels to work with Monte McNair and Assistant GM Wes Wilcox, citing them and what he feels “about those guys leading our group as well” as a major source of interest in this gig.
Above all else, the appeal of the foundational pillars of the team holds the most weight of them all. After Sacramento traded for Sabonis and proved to be a new team altogether with a new capacity to compete, many spectators knew that this Kings team, as lead by their new duo, offered some major appeal to the head coaching job that opened up. Aware of the offensive possibilities, Brown expressed his excitement to work with Fox and Sabonis, who he called “a top-three combination” in the pick and role.
There was little mention of an interest in working with Ranadive, but as a whole, Mike Brown is over the moon about being in this position, which is a nice start to turning this bus around and to restoring faith in this organization.
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