SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Brown’s Monday was one for the books.
On the morning of the Warriors’ big Game 4 against Memphis, it was confirmed that Brown would be the Sacramento Kings’ head coach. He signed a four-year deal and will move to his new role after the Warriors’ playoff run.
Two hours before tipoff, Warriors coach Steve Kerr phoned Brown with some bad news. Kerr had tested positive for COVID-19. Brown, the Warriors’ assistant coach of six years, would be filling in as head coach for the playoff game that night.
A grueling, low-scoring game ended in the Warriors’ favor — with a 101-98 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Memphis in this semifinal series.
“It was an interesting day for me,” Brown said. “Obviously, everybody knows what’s going on, and going through that process while still trying to get ready for the game… it was an up-and-down emotional day for me, too.”
Steph Curry joked on his postgame interview with TNT that with Brown calling the shots, he “felt like we got traded to the Kings overnight.”
With the Warriors’ win, Brown moves to 12-0 in the playoffs as the Warriors’ interim head coach. Brown also filled in for Kerr during the 2016-17 regular season, when Kerr had to miss time dealing with complications following back surgery.
Brown is no stranger to the playoff lights or head coaching duties, either. He will take with him to Sacramento the experience of seven years as a head coach (six with the Cavaliers, one with the Lakers) before joining Kerr’s staff as an assistant coach in 2016 after Luke Walton’s departure. He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2007 after he guided the Cavaliers to an NBA Finals berth, the first of LeBron James’ career.
On short notice coaching a playoff game, Brown said he relied heavily on his fellow assistant coaches and shouted out veterans Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green for being valuable voices on the sideline. Iguodala has missed all four games in this series with a neck injury.
“Andre Iguodala doesn’t get enough credit,” Brown said. “I know he’s not playing, but his voice his, his presence his, he’s always saying the right thing. It uplifts all of us. And for me, it uplifted me. I told him, I told Draymond, I said, ‘I need you guys tonight. I need you guys. I’m going to lean on you guys.’”
Brown also relied on Kerr’s patterns: He started Johnathan Kuminga, like Kerr did in Game 3. And like Kerr did, he played Otto Porter Jr. major minutes in Kuminga’s place alongside the starters, including the start of the third quarter. He also mirrored Kerr in playing Damion Lee in the rotation off the bench, a move that raised some eyebrows.
Steph Curry said Monday was a “wild day all around,” and the Warriors’ win took some problem-solving on the fly. This core is used to playoff bumps in the road.
“He’s coached in the Finals before,” Curry said. “He coached some high-powered teams, some big market teams. He’s been through it all. He Been with us for these last six years, and he’s been interim coach for a little bit and made his presence his felt, especially defensively leading us this year.”