NBA Hoops

The Hoop Collective – Why Mike Brown’s growth as a coach has Kings beaming

The Hoop Collective - Why Mike Brown's growth as a coach has Kings beaming

Brian Windhorst and a team of ESPN’s Insiders sort out life and the news from in and around the NBA world, including Mike Brown’s path of coaching maturation, the NBA’s major problem with contract extensions and the matchup between Philadelphia 76ersJoel Embiid and Brooklyn NetsBen Simmons.

Just before Mike Brown took over as coach of the Sacramento Kings last summer, he looked up a fact about one of his mentors, Gregg Popovich.

When Popovich became coach of the San Antonio Spurs in 1997, he was a few months shy of his 48th birthday (Pop turns 74 on Saturday — happy early birthday, Pop).

Popovich is now the winningest coach in NBA history.

Brown was only 52. His career was not yet defined. He had time to write a new chapter.

It can be easy to cast head coaches in a certain mold and not appreciate that they mature and develop just like players. That might have happened to Brown over the past eight years. After he was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, the third time in four years he lost a head-coaching job, he was left by the side of the coaching road, repeatedly not considered when jobs opened.

Getting another chance, Brown is now showing he didn’t stop growing as a coach.

Once known as one of Popovich’s defense-first disciples, he came to Sacramento armed with more experience and more perspective after learning under future Hall of Fame coach Steve Kerr, with whom he won three rings with the Golden State Warriors.

“Steve has an ability to be confident and secure; to be comfortable in his own skin,” Brown told ESPN. “It’s extremely important to get your team to believe in itself, and it was something I needed to try to install here.”

When Brown studied the Kings, he saw they had talent. Often they’d be in position to win games in the fourth quarter, but then their opponent would bully them. The Kings, a losing team with players used to losing, would allow themselves to get pushed around.

Brown recalled conversations he’d had with Randy Bennett, the longtime coach at St. Mary’s College who turned a moribund program into an annual NCAA tournament participant. Bennett believed convincing a losing team that it belonged with its opponents was the greatest challenge in his early days.

So Brown didn’t come to Sacramento with defensive drills and marathon practices, something players at his previous stops sometimes complained about. He came in teaching the Kings to be confident.

His dominant message was they could win and win now. He…

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