Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/9/12
Like just about everybody else, Gary Payton believes Phil Jackson would be the best fit for the Los Angeles Lakers' coaching job. But the future Hall of Famer doesn't see Jackson wanting to come back. "Because he'd be going back into a situation where they blasted him when he left," Payton said in a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida, referring to Jackson leaving the Lakers in 2011 and being replaced by Mike Brown, who was fired Friday. "You heard all that stuff (from the Lakers) when he left that they didn't want to hire anybody affiliated with Phil Jackson's system (the triangle offense). That's why they didn't hire (then-Lakers assistant Brian Shaw). They fired everybody that was affiliated with Phil." Payton, a point guard who spent his final two seasons with Miami before retiring in 2007, played for Jackson on the Lakers in 2003-04. Jackson, who won titles with the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002, left the team after that season before returning a year later and eventually winning championships in 2009 and 2010. Brown struggled as Jackson's replacement. He went 41-25 last season and was axed after a 1-4 start this season. Expectations are high in Los Angeles with the Lakers having added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to holdover stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But Payton said Brown was doomed from the start. "The offense wasn't going and Kobe wasn't happy," Payton said. "And you got two new guys who just came in in Nash and Howard. It just wasn't a good fit. I think he didn't have the respect. You know that Phil is going to demand respect because of all the championships he won. ... I think players want to play for coaches who have produced." Brown did join the Lakers with a 272-138 record in Cleveland from 2005 to 2010. He made a Finals appearance in 2007 but couldn't get there in 2009 and 2010 when the Cavaliers had the best record in the NBA. "He coached LeBron (James) in Cleveland, but you have to have a coach (on the Lakers) that has been far (in the playoffs) and done a lot of things and had a lot of success, and that wasn't the case with Brown," Payton said. Payton said he had believed for a while it wouldn't work with Brown and the Lakers. But he thought Brown, who has been replaced on an interim basis by Bernie Bickerstaff until the Lakers land a full-time guy, would at least last until December. "I am surprised," Payton said of the timing of the move. "But you look at the body language with Kobe and the interview Kobe had in Utah (where the Lakers lost Wednesday to fall to 1-4) and that was too much. "I think (Brown) should have tried to get along with Kobe a little more and have a better relationship. ... You've got to go to your best player and say, What am I going to have to do to make this work?' and I thought he didn't go about it the right way." Payton said the Lakers should replace Brown with a veteran coach. He said former Utah coach Jerry Sloan would fit that bill. "To get the team back on the right track, you need an older coach that could command respect and then put in an offense and a defense and turn it around," Payton said. "Jerry Sloan is a hard-nosed coach, and that would work." Another candidate is Nate McMillan, Payton's teammate in Seattle from 1991 to 1998 and an assistant and head coach over Payton for 4 years after that. But Payton is wary about McMillan, whom he calls his "big brother," being in a tough situation because of the sometimes unreasonable demands in coaching the Lakers. "He's been successful ... but he's never won a championship, and that's what players (on the Lakers look at)," Payton said of McMillan. "I wouldn't want to see him in a (possible) failed situation. Because on the Lakers, it's a situation that if you don't go in there and do it, you see what happened to Mike Brown. If you don't do what you're supposed to do, that's a sad situation." After all, the guy who replaced Jackson in 2004 already had two championships on his resume. But Rudy Tomjanovich lasted just 43 games before stepping down. These Lakers have been touted as championship contenders because of their four big stars. It's a situation that offers some similarity to 2003-04, when the Lakers brought in Payton and Karl Malone to join Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and give the team four future Hall of Famers. But Payton said a big difference is the 2003-04 Lakers, who lost 4-1 in the Finals to Detroit, had a lot more depth. The roster also included veteran stalwarts Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Devean George and Horace Grant. "People say that didn't work," Payton said about the Lakers trying to integrate four stars nine years ago. "But we went to the (Finals). You guys (the media) talk about it didn't work because of the simple fact we didn't win the championship. But Shaq wasn't healthy and was feuding with ownership, Kobe was going through the rape case (before charges were dropped in September 2004) and Karl Malone got hurt and was out most of the year (missing 40 regular-season games). We went through all those problems and still went to the (Finals). "We had a lot of veterans who know how to play basketball. I don't know if (this year's Lakers) have the bench to (win a championship). It's a big concern. But anything can happen in basketball. Don't think the season is over because they're 1-4." Considering what he went through with the meshing of four stars, Payton was asked what advice he would give to these Lakers. "You've got to play together," Payton said. "And now that they've got a new coach coming in, they've got to make him comfortable. Don't let all of this become a distraction. Whoever they bring in has got to feel comfortable so he can coach basketball games and he can win." Jackson has won plenty with the Lakers. But Payton doesn't expect him to have a third Lakers stint. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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