Mike Brown loves surrounding himself with experienced coaches, and Friday afternoon he got plenty of it as long rumored additions to his staff were made official.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced the signings of former Washington and Philadelphia head coach Eddie Jordan, along with Bernie Bickerstaff, whose NBA coaching career began with the then-Bullets back in 1973 and includes four head gigs, most recently with Charlotte from '04-'07.
Former Orlando assistant Steve Clifford also comes aboard, joining holdovers Chuck Person and Darvin Ham.
The trio replace Ettore Messina and Quin Snyder, both of whom left for CSKA Moscow, as well as John Kuester, who has been reassigned to the role of advanced scout, based on the east coast.
While Bickerstaff is certainly a well-known name around the league, it's Jordan who will have the most tangible impact, because with him comes the installation of the Princeton offense. The Lakers certainly could use a boost on that end of the floor. In an August Q&A, Brown said he started thinking about Jordan at the end of last season before spending about a week with him exploring possibilities.
He explained the appeal of Jordan's favored system:
"I’ve always been infatuated with what Eddie [Jordan] did when he was in Washington... If you take away the individual players and their strengths and all that and just look at the purity of different offenses and how to defend them on a night in, night out basis, I always felt that the stuff [Jordan] did in Washington was difficult to defend. It was difficult to come up with a game plan because of the spacing and ball movement and stuff like that. It’s a stress-free offense because of the counters that are built in and so on and so forth."
Brown also sketched out how he envisions the Lakers operating in the Princeton -- not the heaviest pick-and-roll system -- with Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and the team's now devastating p'n'r potential:
“The way that we’ll put it together, Steve’s going to have an opportunity -- he’s going to quarterback the team -- and so he’s going to have an opportunity to come down the floor every possession and in early offense play pick-and-roll if he wants to. It’s up to him, based on where he decides to take the ball or a call that he makes or an action that he does, it’s up to him to get us into some of the looks of the Princeton offense.
“So again, with him quarterbacking, or making that decision, he’ll still have a chance to get the ball back after he moves or after bodies move. I don’t want to completely give away what we’re trying to do, but in a nutshell, he will have an opportunity to play pick-and-roll at the beginning of almost every play set coming down the floor in early offense. And if not, he can also choose to get to some of the looks out of the Princeton by making a pass or doing an action or doing a call or whatever.”
And that’s what’s exciting. The versatility that we do have it gives us the ability to do a lot of different things."
I've written a few times how much I like the change, and that the Lakers should benefit from the structure and principles the Princeton brings. With four big-time players in the starting lineup, having a system in place helps alleviate concerns about ball distribution. Scoring becomes less about calling one guy's number over another in a series of play calls, and more a question of executing and letting the ball find the right guy.
For a little more insight into how the Princeton might work with the Lakers, check out this interview with Pete Carril, the architect of the system, to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.
People will immediately notice, too, the connection between Clifford and Howard from their Orlando days, something Amick belives is significant.
"For all the buzz about Jordan bringing the Princeton offense, the addition of Clifford is the most underreported part of this shake-up. He is held in very high regard around the league and has a very good relationship with Dwight Howard from their time together with the Magic. Considering how sour things were at the end between Dwight and the entire Magic organization, it's safe to say Clifford - who was in the running for Portland's head coaching job this summer that went to Terry Stotts - wouldn't be in LA if Dwight hadn't given some sort of thumbs up."
Obviously we won't know the shakeup changes things on the floor until the games begin (and any staff would benefit from the massive upgrades in player talent) but at the very least it's clear the Lakers aren't limiting their aggressive summer makeover to the roster.