LOS ANGELES -- When Chuck Person joined the Lakers as a special assistant in 2009, the widely held assumption around the NBA was that his real title was something else entirely: Ron Artest's life coach.
The two were forever linked by that infamous day on Nov. 19, 2004, the Malice at the Palace. Artest rampaged into the stands during the brawl between the Pacers and Pistons and was eventually pulled from the ugly scene by the then-Indiana assistant, who always seemed to have his ear. Their paths would continue to cross, as Person -- himself a brash talent during a 12-year playing career -- joined Artest in Sacramento in 2007 as an assistant and again when they both joined the Lakers three summers ago.
But the defensive-minded Person has since distinguished himself as a trusted Lakers assistant and a legitimate head-coaching candidate, while maintaining his close relationship with the player who now goes by Metta World Peace. Before moving to the Lakers bench in 2010, he gained favor with two of the most discriminating minds in the history of the game: former coach Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.
Person, 47, is now the lone holdover in a new Lakers era under first-year coach Mike Brown, the former Cavs coach and previously the associate head coach in Indiana under Rick Carlisle, from 2003-05. Person, who was interviewed for the Warriors' head-coaching position and was deemed a Lakers candidate before Brown was given the job, recently sat down with SI.com to discuss his experiences in L.A and much more.
He remembers every conversation, and he knew I wanted to coach then. That's why I retired, and I went on to another team to coach after that. So when I came here [in 2009], he said, 'You have a week to show me you're as good as everyone says you are. You'll stay here through training camp and we'll see what happens after that.'
I've never, ever seen anyone better who I've been around, and I've been around some great, great players.
To his credit, he accepts teaching. And sometimes when a guy plays at his high level -- and he plays at the highest level -- and has been in the league so long, sometimes those guys get set in their ways. But for him to be able to absorb and keep learning new things is a testament to his ability to be the best and want to be the best of all time.
We talk everything through as a staff. There's not one coach one day talking to Mike, or another coach one day talking to Mike. We do everything together so that we're on the same page.
So he said, 'Being with me, I won't stand in your way, and as a matter of fact I'm going to make sure that if at all possible that you do get the opportunity to head coach.' And that's with our entire staff. Mike loves his whole staff and his players.