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What Brown has learned from Kerr, Pop for coaching Team Nigeria

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The exceedingly meticulous Mike Brown is a man of many routines, one of which involves tools from the oldest of schools.

A pen and a pad.

Over the course of an NBA coaching career that spans nearly a quarter-century, including stints as an assistant under Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, Brown remains a dedicated scribbler when captivated by what he’s hearing.

“Working for those two guys has been a blessing for me,” Brown says. “Both of those guys are fantastic people persons, and they communicate extremely well. I don’t know if there is a coach out there who messages better to their team on a daily basis. They have it down pat.”

Brown, the top assistant to Kerr on the Warriors, believes that experience will aid him in his role as head coach of the Nigerian National men’s basketball team, which has qualified for the Olympics later this month in Tokyo.

When Popovich was speaking during the early 2000s, when the Spurs were mighty, Brown was the fourth assistant and did a lot of listening and learning. He took a lot of notes. A Warriors assistant under Kerr for the last five seasons, Brown’s routine is the same.

“I’ve been around some great coaches,” he says. “Being with Steve these last (five) years, every time he addresses the team, I have a little notepad in my pocket and my little red pen. And I’ll pull stuff out and take notes.


“For me to learn from him in a lot of different areas, especially the messaging part, has been fantastic. Trying to take some of that from Steve, and from Pop too, is extremely important. Especially in a tournament situation like this.”

Brown will be communicating group of mostly young players, many from the NBA, with only a few weeks together as teammates. He has played a major role in recruiting and assembling those vying for spots on the roster of a country that has fielded a men’s basketball team in each of the last two Games without getting close to a medal.

Even with its vastly improved roster, the prospect of Team Nigeria earning a medal in Tokyo is improbable. No fewer than 20 squads, including Spain and Serbia and France, are rated much higher. Even Poland has better odds to medal.

Team USA is, of course, the heavy favorite. It happens to be coached by Popovich, with Kerr serving as one of the assistants. Funny how the world works.

Team Nigeria is in Group B, and would have to make spectacular advances to reach the medal round and get a chance to face Team USA, which is in Group A.

That won’t prevent Brown from dreaming.

During his time as head coach of the Cavaliers (twice) and Lakers, he has gone pupil-to-mentor with Popovich. Brown’s coaching experience with Kerr is limited to his time as a Warriors staff member.

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There is a bit of advice Popovich gave Brown during his time in Cleveland. After the Cavs won a first-round playoff series over the Wizards in 2006 on a buzzer-beater by Damon Jones, the entire team raced dogpiled Jones. Brown, a 36-year-old rookie head coach enjoying his first playoff series win, joined in.

Popovich saw it and it didn’t take long for him to phone Brown shortly afterward and used colorful language in telling the young coach that jumping on the dogpile is a no-no.

Brown took it heart. He also would love to be position to make such a choice.

“Team Nigeria playing the USA, especially if it’s in the Olympics, if somehow, some way, we end up winning that game, I know for sure I won’t jump on the dogpile, if we have one,” he says. “Other than that, I’m going to dap those guys up. I’m looking forward to playing those guys.”

In the unlikely event that happens, there is little doubt Brown would pull out his notepad and make use of its contents.

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