LOS ANGELES (AP) –– The Lakers issued a statement publicly backing Mike Brown on Saturday after Magic Johnson declared the first-year head coach would be fired if Los Angeles lost Game 7 of its first-round playoff series with Denver.
The club issued its statement a few hours before the third-seeded Lakers hosted the Nuggets in the series finale.
Johnson spoke Friday night on ESPN, where he serves as an analyst. The Hall of Famer sold his minority ownership stake in the Lakers, but is still a club vice president and a close friend of the Buss family, which owns the team.
“The opinion expressed yesterday by Magic Johnson regarding Mike Brown was his personal opinion and was made in his role as a TV analyst,” the team statement read. “His words were not made on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, and in no way do they reflect the feelings or position of team ownership or management. We are fully committed to and supportive of Mike Brown as head coach of the Lakers.”
Johnson also said 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will be “run … out of town” if the 16-time champion Lakers are eliminated by Denver.
A year ago, Brown replaced 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson, who walked away from the franchise after the Lakers’ second-round loss to Dallas last spring. Brown led the Lakers to their fifth straight Pacific Division title and a 41-25 record, but Los Angeles lost two straight closeout games this week against the Nuggets, leading to a winner-take-all Game 7.
Brown brushed off Johnson’s comments during the Lakers’ shootaround Saturday morning. Brown has two more guaranteed years on his contract with a fourth-year option, making an average of $4.5 million per season.
“Magic is a good guy, and he’s entitled to his opinion,” Brown said. “Magic has a job to do, and one of his jobs is to voice his opinion. He’s a great guy. There’s nothing for me to be concerned about there. I’m coaching to win this game tonight, and that’s it.”
Denver coach George Karl wasn’t quite as kind shortly before Game 7, saying Magic’s comments were “totally out of control.”
“That statement is wild and crazy,” Karl added. “It’s ESPN-ish. I think he got another year on his contract for that.”
Johnson and other Lakers legends often weigh in with dramatic pronouncements about the current teams. James Worthy frequently provides meaty sound bites in his role as a local television studio analyst — and last year, Johnson famously declared the Lakers should “blow up” the roster after their second-round loss to Dallas.
Johnson has been busy lately with his new job as a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he still found time to criticize Brown, a successful coach who has won just about everything but a championship.
Brown won 272 games over five seasons with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who fired him in 2010 after losing in the second round. The Cavs reached the NBA finals in 2007, and Brown was the NBA’s coach of the year in 2009 after Cleveland went 66-16.