LOS ANGELES -- Mike Brown always thought he had more time than he really did.
As he spoke about the Princeton offense and incorporating Dwight Howard and Steve Nash into the team, he predicted the Lakers would have a large number of turnovers early in the season and that the team wouldn't fully hit its stride until January or February.
In many ways, he was predicting his own fate by consistently preaching patience and understanding in a city that revolves around instant gratification.
Brown wasn't even able to last until the sixth game of the regular season, let alone January or February, with a team that looked as lost as he predicted it would.
That Brown would lead a team as talented as the Lakers down this long and confusing road probably sealed his fate as much as their performance eventually did.
This wasn't a decision that was made because the Lakers started the season 1-4. It was compounded by an 0-8 preseason -- where the Lakers lost games by an average of more than 15 points -- and the way they lost their last two postseason games against Oklahoma City. If you're keeping track, that's a 1-14 record in the Lakers' last 15 games, with the lone win coming against the Detroit Pistons (0-5 in the regular season).
Brown's lifeboat was the Lakers' upcoming six-game homestand, where he was supposed to be able to win some games and build back some goodwill with an impatient front office and fan base. The Lakers decided not to give him that refuge.
This wasn't about Brown not being a good coach. He just wasn't the right coach for the Lakers now. He probably would have been able to win more than 50 games this season and taken the Lakers back to the second round of the playoffs, but the front office and the Buss family no longer viewed him as a championship coach. And they didn't spend over $100 million on the roster this season to simply hand it over to coach who couldn't win a championship.
There are plenty of good coaches available on the market right now, including Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan, Mike D'Antoni, Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy.
There is, however, only one championship coach -- and that is, of course, Phil Jackson.
A trending topic on Twitter during Lakers games this season besides #FireMikeBrown, has been #HirePhilJackson, or some variation of Jackson's name. He is the only coach the Lakers could hire who would not only appease a frustrated fan base but a roster looking for a coach with the résumé and championship history to tell everyone, as Kobe Bryant put it so eloquently last week, "Shut up. Let us work. At the end of the day, you'll be happy with the result as you normally are."
Bryant made the comments because, as he said, "You have Mike Brown telling everybody to be patient. Where back then, it was Phil Jackson telling everybody to shut up." So Bryant took it upon himself to say what Jackson would have said if he were the coach. Now the Lakers are in a position to actually hire Jackson and let him do the talking.
If it seems unlikely Jackson would return to the Lakers now, it should be noted it was far more unlikely he would have returned for his second stint with the team in 2005 after he called Bryant "uncoachable" in Jackson's book titled "The Last Season." Jackson and Bryant forged a stronger bond upon the coach's return, went to three more NBA Finals, and won back-to-back titles.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak didn't close the door on the possibility of Jackson returning as the Lakers coach when asked during Friday's news conference.
"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 be aware that he's out there," Kupchak said. "We're putting together our list and an attack plan but we have not reached out to anybody at this time."
Many of the Lakers, like Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, already know how to run Jackson's triangle offense, and those who don't should pick it up easily. When Jackson first came to the Lakers in 1999, everyone said it would take them a season or two to learn the triangle. The Lakers started the 1999-2000 season 31-5, finished with a record of 67-15 and won the title.
The beauty of this possible return for Jackson is not only getting a championship-caliber roster again, but needing to commit for only about two seasons, or until Bryant decides to retire. The Lakers aren't seeking a long-term commitment here. Then again, Jackson could decide always to stick around until 2014, when LeBron James might want to replace Bryant in L.A.
Jackson, whose longtime girlfriend is Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss, lives in Los Angeles, where his old assistants are just a phone call away. He could be back on the sidelines with Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen by his side next week if he wanted to. Conspiracy theorists will already point to Jackson backing out of a speaking engagement in Chicago next week, moments before Brown was fired.
Former Laker Kurt Rambis said Friday, "If I'm the Lakers organization, how do you not make the phone call to the head coach that has had so much success with your organization, won more championships than any coach with the organization, and that head coach is sitting out there, living in Los Angeles and he's available?"
Jackson was irked by contract negotiations with the Lakers before he eventually left the team in 2011. He made $12 million during the 2009-10 season before taking a paycut during his final season in 2010-11 to about $10 million. It wasn't a massive difference, but after winning back-to-back titles, it didn't sit well with him. He also had a rocky relationship with Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, who jettisoned all of Jackson's assistants and never gave assistant coach Brian Shaw a fair shake at the job.
Jim Buss, however, knows when he's wrong. He finally pulled the trigger on trading Andrew Bynum, a player Buss drafted, who was thought to be untouchable in his eyes. He fired Brown, even though Brown was his hire and someone he had grown close with. And now, he must do the right thing and bring back Jackson.
After cutting a $3 billion deal for the team's television rights and paying $100 million in salary this season, Buss needs to offer a blank check to Jackson to make it all come together. It's only right that Jackson's triangle production in Los Angeles ends with a third and final championship act.