Mike Brown has experienced no shortage of success throughout his NBA coaching career.
Before leading the Kings to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and likely back to the playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons, Brown made an impact on multiple championship-winning teams while learning from some of the game's best coaches.
Brown's leadership has been on display throughout the 2022-23 season, but his frustration after the Kings' 122-117 win over the New York Knicks might just be the best example of the culture he has created in his first season with Sacramento.
While addressing the team's win over the Knicks, Brown explained how the Kings were "not good" and how he was "extremely disappointed" in Sacramento's inability to box out and rebound. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a win against the Eastern Conference's No. 5 seed.
Brown spoke to reporters on Friday at Kings shootaround, where he discussed his frustrations after the game and what his message to the team was the following day.
"We talked about how slippage can be invisible and how we have to continue holding each other accountable," Brown said. "We talked about getting a little complacent with some of the wins and not showing appreciation for the process and the different steps you need to take to try and be a champion and sustain a winning culture. So we talked about those things today to add on to it."
Brown's style of coaching, which is centered around accountability, was influenced by none other than legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whom Brown served as an assistant coach under for three seasons from 2000-2003. Brown recalled an interesting anecdote about Popovich's relationship with Tim Duncan and how he applied what he learned from watching the Hall-of-Fame duo to coaching veteran Kings players such as Domantas Sabonis, De'Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes.
"When I worked as an assistant for [Gregg Popovich] in the early 2000s, after my first year we were having a staff meeting and we were talking about some of the things he was going to say to the players during the exit meetings and we start talking about Tim Duncan," Brown recalled.
"One of the first things Pop said was 'I need to thank Timmy' and that was pretty much it. I was like, 'What are you thanking Timmy for?' And he said 'At the end of the day, this is a player's league and Tim Duncan allows me to coach him and allows me to coach him hard. If he didn't allow me to coach him and coach him hard, I wouldn't be here and you guys wouldn't be here. And I want to make sure he understands the appreciation I have for that, because that sets the tone for the rest of the group.' "
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The coachability of star players goes a long way in developing a culture of honesty and accountability, which has paid off for Brown and the Kings this season.
"It's no different. Foxy and Domas, HB as well, they allow me to coach them," Brown explained. "And they understand that I appreciate that. And I'm not going to take advantage of it, but yet they still embrace everything that I say and they try to uphold their position as leaders of this team so that everybody can be better. But at the end of the day, because they embrace the way I coach, it makes it easier to coach everybody else just as hard."
Although Brown recognizes that the NBA is a player's game, he understands how important his role is as a leader and coach of a young, hungry team on the brink of snapping its historic playoff drought.