Brown and the Lakers have already exchanged contract figures, with a deal potentially being struck as early as Wednesday, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
But the sources also said a deal between the Lakers and Brown, an ESPN analyst and the 2008-09 NBA coach of the year, could collapse if Brown does not get enough security -- in terms of years and money -- to sufficiently empower him as coach.
Media reports on the length and value of the contract vary. The Los Angeles Times reported the deal on the table was for three years, with a team option for a fourth, and would pay Brown between $4 million and $4.5 million yearly. CSNBayArea reported that Brown is expected to receive a four-year deal from the Lakers worth about $18 million.
Former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman appeared to the Lakers' front-runner because of his experience and deft touch with veterans. But Brown benefited from a strong face-to-face interview with the Lakers, ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported.
In the event that the Lakers and Brown fail to reach an agreement, sources say the Lakers are expected to turn to Adelman. One source close to the process told ESPNLosAngeles.com the Lakers were prepared to move on to another candidate quickly if negotiations with Brown do not go well.
While popular with current players, most notably Kobe Bryant, current Lakers assistant Brian Shaw appears to have slipped to third at best on the Lakers' wish list, with the team increasingly determined to hire a veteran coach to replace Jackson. While Shaw has not been officially ruled out, several sources have said he was a long shot from the start of the coaching search.
Brown was widely considered in coaching circles to be the favorite to be hired as the next coach of the Golden State Warriors, who, according to sources, now expect Brown to be soon off the market. Other candidates in Golden State include Shaw, Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, Boston Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson and TNT analyst Kevin McHale.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had plans to return to Los Angeles late Tuesday night after spending a week in Chicago and Minneapolis attending pre-draft camps to evaluate prospects. The Lakers have four second-round draft picks, but no first-rounder.
A key factor shaping the Lakers' coaching search is compensation. The team intends to lower its coaching salary after paying the outgoing Phil Jackson more than $8 million in his final season and $12.5 million in 2009-10. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that owner Jerry Buss doesn't want to exceed an annual salary of $5 million for his next coach.
Brown, 41, fits some of the parameters that have been laid out by the Lakers after their stunning second-round exit to Dallas in four games, most notably with his strong reputation as a defensive coach. Kupchak said after the team's exit interviews that it typically hires coaches that "stick with us for a long time," while Bryant emphasized the need to find a coach who will bring a defensive identity as more important than what offense he runs.
Brown guided Cleveland to the 2007 NBA Finals and two trips to the Eastern Conference finals in five seasons in Cleveland, posting a record of 272-138. Yet after years of absorbing criticism for his offensive system, Brown was dismissed as part of Cleveland's attempt to pacify LeBron James before James' free-agent summer in 2010. Brown's ouster, though, didn't prevent James from signing with the Miami Heat and contributed to Danny Ferry's resignation as Cavs general manager.
Adelman, 64, has never won a championship and is best remembered in Lakerland as coach of the Sacramento team that took a 3-2 series lead over L.A. in the heated and controversial 2002 Western Conference finals before the Kings lost in seven games. But his reputation as a player's coach known for his offensive strategy would appear to make him a better fit than other top veteran coaches available -- such as ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan or Larry Brown -- because of the Buss family's well-known fondness for entertaining basketball.
In four seasons with the injury-plagued Rockets, Adelman posted a record of 193-135 for a .588 winning percentage and helped Houston extend the Lakers to seven games in the second round of the 2009 playoffs despite the absence of Yao Ming for most of the series.
Adelman's career record is 945-616, which puts him eighth in all-time victories and includes two trips to the NBA Finals with Portland, as well as one unsuccessful stint with Golden State between his jobs with the Blazers and Kings
Bryant gave his public endorsement of Shaw and sources told Bucher that he also was in favor of the Lakers hiring either Adelman or Van Gundy, another former Rockets coach. As of last week, according to one source, Van Gundy had not been contacted.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com and Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher of ESPN The Magazine and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com contributed to this report.