With the reluctance of coaching next season as a lame duck, Mike D’Antoni abruptly stepped down—while still making $4 million in salary next season. Consequently, this meant the next head coach hire would count for the price of three (Lakers still owe Mike Brown up to $5 million).
Jim Buss knows he has been on thin ice with the fan base and the media ever since the mishandling of the Phil Jackson fiasco. Recently, Buss informed his family that he would step down in three or four years time if the Lakers were not contenders by then. Buss finally understands that the next coaching hire will likely define his tenure as the chief of Lakers management.
During the process of hiring the Lakers last head coach, Buss opted for the team to abandon the slow system triangle players and focus more on bringing the ‘Showtime Lakers’ back. Obviously, we all know how that turned out. While we have no idea to the mindset of direction that Buss plans to take this franchise, we can get a good idea from the list of candidates that have surfaced the past couple of days.
Hard-Nose, Half-Court, Scrappy Defensive Style
- Byron Scott
With 13 years as head coach experience and having led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals over a decade ago, former Showtime member Byron Scott has already made it known publicly that he is interested in the head coaching vacancy of the Lakers. Scott brings an old school, no-nonsense approach that would definitely appease the mind of Kobe Bryant. The combination of a Scott hiring for the Lakers and the uncertainty of Kyrie Irving’s willingness to sign an extension this summer will definitely generate speculation of a possible Kyrie-Scott reunion in Hollywood. At least one source told Bleacher Report Ric Bucher that this was a legitimate direction that management are currently mulling over.
- Jeff Van Gundy
It would take quite a bit to lure Jeff Van Gundy from the comforting television commentating seats of ESPN; nevertheless the Lakers have always had Van Gundy high on their head-coaching list. Up and coming Bobcats coach Steve Clifford and defensive guru Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau were both assistants with Van Gundy during the early 2000 Knick years. Both Clifford and Thibodeau reciprocate the scrappy physical defensive mindset that Van Gundy was known for as head coach.
- Lionel Hollins
Fresh off leading the Grizzles to the Western Conference Finals last season, Hollins has been a name that has floated with any available NBA head coaching vacancy since he was fired. Hollins would bring a tough-minded, grit and grind approach, but it also could come at a cost. Hollins was fired by Memphis because he had butted heads with Grizzles executives on multiple of occasions. With Hollins’ limited offensive creativity, it would be difficult to see the Buss family hiring Hollins, especially given what happened when offensive incompetent Mike Brown coached the Lakers.
- Ettore Messina
The four-time Euroleague champion Ettore Messina would provide the glamour hire that the Lakers have always been known for. Having worked with the Lakers as recently as the 2012 season, Messina served as an assistant/consultant to Mike Brown. Bryant and Lakers management share the same affinity for Euroleague legend Messina. He demands a slow tempo, half-court system style of play on both sides of the ball. His stubborn coaching mentality may clash with personalities like Bryant, but Messina is known as coaching his best in the fourth quarter.
Up-Tempo, Free Flowing, Efficient Offensive Style
- George Karl
If the front office enjoyed the offensive flow and up-tempo style that D’Antoni bought to Staples Center, then Karl would be an ideal fit. Like his disciple Terry Scotts—who is flourishing as coach with the Blazers—Karl runs a high efficiency, equal opportunity offense that would be entertaining to watch. He could create a strong cohesive bond amongst the younger players similar to what he did with the young players on Denver. Given Karl’s track record of demanding ample control of the team roster, the Lakers do not seem like a likely fit.
- John Calipari
On the day of the NCAA Championship, former Kentucky legend Rex Chapman tweeted that Kentucky insiders told him that Calipari was headed to the Lakers, which caused a media frenzy. Since then, Calipari has asserted his intentions to stay at Kentucky, but we have seen this act before. Akin to how Calipari’s last NBA stint turned out, a Calipari-Lakers marriage could end with a messy divorce. Calipari commands complete control of the roster, and we know that the Lakers front office will not tolerate that.
- Kevin Ollie
As inexperienced as Ollie is, he managed to guide his UConn squad to a national championship. The Lakers have already publicly announced that they would be checking in to see Ollie’s interest. Ollie’s stock will never be as high as it currently is, yet Ollie has expressed his desire to remain at his alma mater UConn. Unlike Calipari, Ollie is still considered inexperienced as a coach and would be a much better fit than Calipari for someone to jump into the professional ranks.
- Derek Fisher
Considering that Fisher is still playing in the league and without any coaching experience, he should be considered a long shot. Adrian Wojnarowski threw out Fisher as someone the Lakers should seriously consider, and it seems like a perfect fit to the puzzle. With the current state of the roster and the instability of the Laker front office, Fisher could provide the Lakers with a cheap coaching option and the willingness to go through the growing pains with a young roster next season. Furthermore, it does not hurt that Kobe’s must trusted basketball ally is Fisher—as they won five titles together.