LOS ANGELES — The Lakers fired coach Mike Brown on Friday after a 1-4 start to his second season in charge.
General manager Mitch Kupchak announced the surprising move several hours before the Lakers hosted Golden State. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff coached against the Warriors as the club's top brass began searching for Brown's replacement 18 months after hiring him.
"The bottom line is that the team is not winning at the pace we expected this team to win, and we didn't see improvement," Kupchak said.
Los Angeles began with title expectations after trading for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash in the offseason to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But the Lakers went 0-8 during the preseason and started the regular season 0-3. The defense has been largely poor, and the players still haven't figured out the offense installed by Brown during training camp.
Combined with their aging core of talent and a massive payroll, Kupchak and owners Jim and Jerry Buss decided they couldn't wait.
"We're not looking five or 10 years down the road," Kupchak said. "This team was built to contend this year. There's no guarantee that this team can win a championship, but we feel that it can be deeply in the hunt."
Brown was hired in May 2011 to replace Phil Jackson, signing a four-year deal worth roughly $18 million.
"It's a pretty direct message to all of us," Gasol said. "There's no messing around."
Kupchak did nothing to squelch speculation Jackson, 67, could return for a third tenure with the Lakers. He said he hadn't reached out to any candidates for the job but believed the Lakers likely would hire an experienced coach who isn't currently working.
"When there's a coach like Phil Jackson, one of the all-time greats, and he's not coaching, I think you would be negligent not to know that he's out there," Kupchak said.