The Los Angeles Lakers have a coach who was on the hot seat from the moment he took the job and a team that isn't living up to expectations quite yet.
It's not out of the question that he could be fired at some point during this season.
Even if Mike Brown does make it all the way through this season, it's not inconceivable that a loss before the Western Conference Finals could lead to his termination.
The only former NBA coaches with the gravitas and the know-how to take on the challenge of coaching the Lakers, and the only ones that really stick out, are Larry Brown, Phil Jackson (for the third time) or everybody's favorite giant Mario, Stan Van Gundy.
A return of Van Gundy to the coaching game doesn't seem like it's going to happen immediately, as he's taking a foray into television this season. While he didn't end up getting the ESPN job (conspiracy theories abound), he is undertaking a roll with NBC for the college basketball season, starting off with some radio work and then dabbling in television.
It seems that the Lakers are stuck with Mike Brown for the time being.
Who knows, maybe he'll get his game together and the team will really start to bring it. If not, however, it seems clear that Van Gundy is the most likely of the three mentioned to replace him.
First of all, the notion that Jackson would come back for a third stint in Los Angeles is insane. It seemed pretty evident that Jackson was as done with L.A. as they were with him after the dump out of the playoffs the team took in 2011.
Larry Brown would be an interesting choice, but he brings the same thing to the table that Mike Brown brings, only a lot better.
Brown is a defensive-minded master of both college basketball and the NBA, but as a 72-year-old dude, it's going to be hard to see either side making a long commitment to him as the head coach. In a league where head coaches are starting to skew younger, Brown would step in and be the oldest head coach in the league by a full six years over Rick Adelman.
Would Brown leave his job at SMU to coach the Lakers? It seems possible, but I'm not so sure they would want to bring him in.
That leaves the always controversial, always entertaining and always turtlenecked Stan Van Gundy.
On the surface it seems impossible that Van Gundy would come to Los Angeles to coach Dwight Howard again, especially after the two had a falling out in Orlando. However, Van Gundy seems to be singing a different tune now that the craziness of his contract situation is behind them.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Van Gundy said:
I've said from my standpoint that my thoughts of him are all good. I don't know how many games we won here in five years but it was a lot and he was a huge factor in that thing. He did a lot for me and he was an easy guy to coach, one of the smartest players I have ever coached. He was coachable and practiced every single day. We had our differences and they became public. Had we been left to handle them on our own, I think things would have been a lot of different.
That seems like some high praise for a guy who may or may not have gotten Van Gundy fired.
Even further, on the prospect of coaching again and Howard being available, Van Gundy gushed some more, "Heck, if I were ever anywhere again and he were available, I'd be knocking down the door of my general manager to do anything to get him."
Now there are some logistical issues.
Van Gundy stated in the same interview that he wasn't interested in moving anywhere to start a new coaching gig with his kids still in school. But his thinking might change if he has the chance to coach Howard on a team with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Van Gundy would bring commanding leadership to this team, something they don't seem to have under Mike Brown.
He's got a demanding style about his game that is sometimes stubborn but has constantly allowed him to demand respect from his players and to overachieve.
Aside from that, no coach has used the stretch-four quite as well as Van Gundy did with Rashard Lewis. He wouldn't have Pau Gasol shooting threes, but his ability to space the floor spills right into Van Gundy's expertise.
Plus, he knows how to game plan with Dwight Howard, whether it be setting the defense up around him and using him as the perfect anchor or pounding the opposition with the pick-and-roll.
He coaches to Howard's strengths.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Van Gundy will be spending the remainder of the basketball season with NBC Sports. Should Mike Brown fail to get desired playoff results, there are few reasons to think that Stan Van Gundy wouldn't be the best replacement.
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