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Mike Brown is excited for the present and future of Black coaches in the NBA

The Golden State Warriors assistant and future Sacramento Kings coach had a wild week, buoyed by the support of the league’s Black coaches

SAN FRANCISCO – Mike Brown’s cellphone was filled with congratulatory text messages from family, friends and NBA colleagues when he was recently named the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. But of all the well-wishes, the ones that left a lasting impression on Brown came from his fellow Black NBA coaches, such as Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue.

Rivers told Andscape that it was important that Brown knew “there were a lot of coaches who were not only happy for him, but believed it was due.”

“It was fantastic, man. Most of the coaches out there reached out to me,” Brown, currently the Golden State Warriors’ associate head coach, told Andscape. “Probably 99% of the African American coaches reached out to me, too. And guys that I do not necessarily talk to every day. But to get some of the congratulatory texts from those guys felt really good.

“It was led by Doc. Doc was fighting his ass off [coaching the Philadelphia 76ers] in that [playoff] series. But he took the time to send me a nice text. Same with Ty Lue. So, I got a lot of love for those guys and respect for them for reaching out.”

Brown has a 347-216 record with six playoff appearances in eight seasons as a head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-2010, 2013-14) and Los Angeles Lakers (2011-12), but has not been an NBA head coach since 2014. The 2009 Coach of the Year went to the NBA Finals as a head coach with LeBron James and the Cavaliers in 2007. Brown also served as an assistant coach for NBA championship teams with the San Antonio Spurs (2003) and Warriors (2017, 2018).

The Kings signed Brown to a four-year deal and announced on May 9 that he would be their new head coach. He will become the Kings’ 12th coach in 16 seasons. The Kings have not made the postseason since 2006 and have never participated in a play-in game in its three years of existence. The Kings are expected to have a news conference with Brown once the Warriors, who are in the Western Conference finals, complete their season.

“I owe this Warriors organization a lot, especially with [head coach] Steve [Kerr] having COVID,” Brown said. “So, I’m going to devote 99.9% of my time to what we have going here so that, at the end of the day, we can try to get the most out of this run that we’re on. And that’s the one way I can thank [Warriors co-owner] Joe Lacob, [general manager] Bob Myers, Steve Kerr and all those guys in that locker room.

“I’m not going to say anything about the Sacramento job right now. But I’m excited just to get another opportunity.”

After Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr (left) tested positive for COVID-19, assistant Mike Brown (right) helped lead the Warriors in their 4-2 series win against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

About a year ago, there was a lack of optimism among Black coaches in the NBA about getting more head-coaching opportunities. At the NBA All-Star break in 2021, there were only seven Black head coaches out of 30 total in a league that was composed of 75% Black players. Then-Minnesota Timberwolves associate head David Vanterpool being passed over when the head-coaching job became open in February 2021 raised an alarm as well.

Last offseason, however, seven of the eight head coach openings were filled by African Americans. Brown’s hiring increases the number of Black head coaches to 14 with jobs still open with the Lakers and Charlotte Hornets. The 2022 NBA Coach of the Year is a Black head coach, Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns.

Brown says he is happy with the progress for Black coaches in the NBA.

“It’s fantastic, and it shows that our league is ahead of the curve,” Brown said. “And we still have a ways to go. But the NBA, in my opinion, is leading the charge and, a lot of it is due to everybody at the top. And then also with the players. I mean, we have the right guys stepping up and speaking out, and I think that has had a lot of impact, not only in the hiring process when it comes to coaches, but in the hiring process, all throughout the organizations.

“And so, I truly believe that, again, we still have a way to go. but we’re in the forefront and guys like Doc Rivers, Ty Lue, the guys that have had a lot of success, their voices continue to be strong. We need their voices to be strong. And then guys like myself and [Portland Trail Blazers head coach] Chauncey [Billups], the guys that are just getting back into it, we have to step up and carry our weight too and make sure that we forge that path for the others behind us.”

Brown also received another opportunity to work as a head coach due to Kerr’s absence during Games 4-6 of the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal series against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors also went 12-0 in the 2016-17 playoffs, with Brown taking over for Kerr, who eventually returned that postseason after taking a leave of absence for health reasons.

“I don’t know if I’ve had more challenges in a week in my life; by far, it’s been the most challenging job in my life.”

— Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown on being hired by the Kings and coaching Golden State in the playoffs in the same week

Brown was told by Kerr about his possible absence at 4:45 p.m. on May 8 before Game 4 against the Grizzlies in San Francisco. Kerr was officially out 30 minutes later for the contest with a 7 p.m. tipoff. With Brown at the helm and Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in attendance, the Warriors won Game 4. They were then routed in Memphis in Game 5, and claimed the series in a Game 6 win on May 13 in San Francisco.

Brown coached Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, James with the Cavaliers and was swept by the veteran and experienced Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals. But of all the challenges he’s faced in his career, the 52-year-old said, leading the Warriors past the Grizzlies with Kerr out after being named the head coach of the Kings may top the list.

“I don’t know if I’ve had more challenges in a week in my life; by far, it’s been the most challenging job in my life,” Brown said. “But just in my life, in general, all the different things that I have going on, getting named head coach of Sacramento Kings, and trying to do a little bit with that. Steve getting COVID and being out. This is the first year that I’ve ran the defense. And so, trying to cram and study what we need to do offensively and how we can take advantage of them on the offense, when we had the ball, all that stuff and other things.

“I’m still a father. I got my boys, and it’s been a challenging week, but like I said, when you have a great guy like Steve to work for, and you’ve got veterans like Andre [Iguodala] and Draymond [Green] and Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] and Loon [Kevon Looney], and then the rest of the staff, they just help prop you up. And they help you get through it.”

Kerr cleared NBA health and safety protocols Sunday and is expected to be back to coach the Western Conference finals that begin Wednesday. Brown is glad to hear that news.

“I look at myself as a substitute teacher so, and the guys, they’ve always responded. They’ve done a heck of a job with that, but Steve Kerr is not replaceable in my opinion, in this position,” Brown said.

Kerr described Brown’s performance in his absence as “fantastic.”

“The whole staff was great,” Kerr said. “For Mike, in particular, what a difficult spot to be put in. Especially given he had just been hired by Sacramento. He had a lot going on. He had enough on his plate anyways as the defensive coordinator trying to slow down Memphis and focus on that. For me, to show up to the game, test positive and leave put a lot of pressure on Mike and the rest of the staff.

“He’s been the solidest guy we’ve had in this organization over the past six years, and it’s shown. It’s shown for us across the board all the time. But when he’s had to step up to the challenge and take over the reins, it’s shown as well.”

— Warriors forward Draymond Green

“Mike has done this before. Not only replacing me a few years ago, but also doing it himself for [eight] years as a head coach himself.”

The Warriors will have to replace “Mike B.,” as the players affectionately refer to him, eventually, too.

“Mike B. is one of a kind. He’s a players’ coach,” Thompson said. “He’s a great leader. He loves the game. He’s grinded for everything he’s got in the league starting as a video coordinator in the early ’90s. I love talking to him about what the NBA was like back then. We are going to miss him next year, obviously.”

Said Green: “I give Mike a lot of credit. He’s been the solidest guy we’ve had in this organization over the past six years, and it’s shown. It’s shown for us across the board all the time. But when he’s had to step up to the challenge and take over the reins, it’s shown as well. One of the more prepared coaches I’ve ever been around, and he embraces the challenge.

“If this is his last time coaching us, from that standpoint, you want to do it the right way. Make sure he’s one of our guys. Make sure he rolls on to Sacramento good and confident and go turn that thing around. Because, ultimately, it’s one of our guys and we want to see him do well and to help jump-start that. That’s always the hope.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.