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After losing four of five games to start the season, the Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Mike Brown on Friday.
Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will serve as interim coach while the Lakers search for a long-term replacement. In a news conference, team general manager Mitch Kupchak left open the possibility of the Lakers making a run at bringing back Phil Jackson for a third time as coach.
"I think you'd be negligent not to be aware that [Jackson's] out there," Kupchak said.
On Friday morning at the Lakers' practice facility, Brown was meeting with his coaching staff to discuss the evening's home game against Golden State, when a Lakers employee interrupted and asked him to step out for a few minutes. Nearly 10 minutes later, Brown returned and informed his staff that he had been fired.
The Lakers will cease running the Princeton offense immediately, sources told Yahoo! Sports. Management was unhappy with the offense implemented this season, and Bickerstaff was told that he needed to move away from it. Some elements could still be used on Friday night but the team plans to install more traditional pick-and-roll NBA sets moving forward.
Another coaching candidate prominently being discussed as a long-term possibility: Mike D'Antoni.
D'Antoni has been without a job since leaving the New York Knicks in 2011. D'Antoni had knee replacement surgery in the past couple weeks and is not yet on his feet. Would still need time to rehabilitate before he could go back to work.
Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw also could become a candidate – though that's a dicier proposition, given the acrimony that ensued between the Lakers front office and Shaw after the team chose to replace Jackson with Brown over Shaw.
Also, the Pacers aren't expected to be willing to let Shaw, their associate head coach, leave for a potential head coaching job with the Lakers, sources with direct knowledge of his contract told Yahoo! Sports.
While no discussion has been had on the issue, sources with knowledge of Shaw's contract say that it would be difficult to extract him from the Pacers during the season.
USA Today first reported Brown's firing.
In conversations on Thursday, Kupchak made a case to Lakers owner Jerry Buss and executive vice president Jim Buss to give Brown more time before deciding to fire him, sources told Y! Sports. Brown also made a case to management that he could get the Lakers into championship contention, sources said.
''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 told reporters.
Lakers ownership made clear that buying out the remaining three years on Brown's original $18 million, four-year contract wasn't an obstacle to making a coaching change.
Within the organization, there was a sense that Brown has frayed his connection to the locker room with long practices and game-day shootarounds, sources said. Brown began to address that issue recently with shortened sessions.
The irony is that Jerry Buss' son who runs the day-to-day operations of the franchise, Jim – and not Kupchak – was the primary advocate in the hiring of Brown and the firing of him. Kupchak was partial to Rick Adelman as a replacement, sources said. Nevertheless, the Buss family lost patience with the team's sluggish start to the Princeton offense, and didn't accept the excuses of a weak bench with such a star-studded starting five of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
Nash is sitting out with a broken bone in his leg, and won't return to the lineup until later this month.
Yahoo! Sports' NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this story.
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