7 Head Coach Candidates for LA Lakers' Next Chapter
Given the failures of Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni in L.A., the front office desperately needs to hire the best candidate available as opposed to simply looking for someone who is a so-called fit.
The Lakers need a coach who has succeeded in multiple stops because that demonstrates the ability to adapt to different rosters. Furthermore, it’s important that the track record of Los Angeles’ next head man shows he can work in partnership with great players.
That will help the Lakers in their quest to sign a stud free agent during the 2014 offseason. The Purple and Gold will only go as far as their best players take them. Hence, someone capable of attracting talent and actually capitalizing off it is the way to go.
The Profile: Rick Carlisle
Rick Carlisle is signed with the Dallas Mavericks until the 2015-16 season, but Doc Rivers’ relocation from the Boston Celtics to the Los Angeles Clippers despite still being under contract with Boston is a sign that accommodations can be made for coaches wishing to change teams.
Carlisle won 61 games with the Indiana Pacers in 2003-04 and also helped steer a Mavericks team to a title at the expense of the heavily favored Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. He has impeccable credentials, and what’s more, Carlisle helped turn Jermaine O’Neal into an All-Star and Dirk Nowitzki into a Finals MVP.
He would be a perfect fit in Los Angeles because he does a terrific job of forcing opponents to defend multiple wrinkles whilst tiring out the top players of the opposition by consistently running them through screens off the ball. He has a sharp mind that helps his teams execute on both sides of the ball.
Carlisle is one of the top coaches in basketball, but he has not manifested any interest whatsoever in potentially defecting to the Lakers. Dallas offers a semblance of stability whereas Los Angeles’ unknown future (injuries to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and 2014 free agency) might not interest him.
6. Byron Scott
Byron Scott grew up in Inglewood, which was within proximity of the Los Angeles Lakers’ home arena at the time. What’s more, he eventually became the starting 2-guard for the Lakers and won three titles.
His ties with the Purple and Gold obviously run deep and, in addition, Scott has the qualifications. The former Laker coached the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals and, also, he took the New Orleans Hornets to the second round of the playoffs.
Scott helped Chris Paul and Jason Kidd enjoy some of the best seasons of their respective careers. On the flip side, his teams have only made four postseason appearances since 2000.
To be fair, Scott has coached some bad teams, but his coaching record, per Basketball-Reference.com might dissuade the Lakers from considering him.
5. Larry Brown
Larry Brown has long been viewed as one of the best coaches in the sport because of his teaching ability (the NCAA and NBA titles also help). His teams are typically disciplined and prepared for their opponents.
Having coached for nine of the league's teams throughout his 31-year career, Brown has an NBA title on his résumé with the Detroit Pistons and also a finals appearance with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown’s most impressive coaching feat may have been to get the best out of an inefficient player named Allen Iverson.
The former league MVP often favored calling his own number and was not too fond of practice. And yet, Brown used his strengths and turned an average 76ers team into a title contender.
Brown appears this low because he is currently the head coach of Southern Methodist University. In addition, he has never been shy about jumping from one job to the next, hence a potential stay with Los Angeles might be short-lived.
4. George Karl
George Karl captured the 2012-13 Coach of the Year award by leading the Denver Nuggets to 57 wins, despite the absence of a superstar.
His paint-attacking offensive scheme is one of the best the league had during his time in Denver because it leads to high-percentage looks directly at the basket. Karl’s success in Denver is hardly a one-time trick.
Indeed, Karl has been to the conference finals with the Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks and the Nuggets. All three teams had incredibly different rosters powered by stars.
The one concern with Karl is his willingness to fire jabs at players through the media. It makes one wonder if he goes about coaching some of his stars in that manner, which can be problematic with headstrong athletes such as Bryant.
3. Jeff Van Gundy
Jeff Van Gundy’s creative rule changes during NBA on ESPN telecasts highlight his willingness to think outside the box, which is at times a huge asset. While coaching the New York Knicks, he once assigned Marcus Camby (a center) to defend Tracy McGrady (2-guard) and proudly observed as McGrady struggled.
That imaginative mind helped the Knicks get to the NBA Finals. Van Gundy was not as successful in his stint with the Houston Rockets, but he still led an injury-prone roster to a pair of seasons with north of 50 wins.
Van Gundy did a solid job in maximizing the contributions of his stars and milking them for everything they were worth. The former Knicks coach is worth considering, but his inability to get out of the first round during his time in Houston hurts his candidacy.
2. Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy is arguably the best potential replacement in this list. He consistently gets his teams into the playoffs. Moreover, Van Gundy has made appearances in the conference finals with two separate teams.
Keep in mind, even after Howard requested to be traded from the Orlando Magic, Van Gundy still had the team playing hard and performing at its usual standard. He extracts the best out of the talent he has and should be the lead guy for the job.
Mind you, there’s this next guy…
1. Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson will forever be the Los Angeles Lakers coach. In two different stints with the team, he led the Purple and Gold to multiple titles with two vastly different cores.
Interestingly enough, Bryant has never played in a conference finals without Jackson, a clear indication the coach is great at blending talents. Jackson has also won championships with the Chicago Bulls, which speaks to his ability to work with different players.
Jackson will always be the top candidate for the job because he has previously accepted the challenge and delivered. The Lakers franchise is accustomed to championships, and that’s exactly what Jackson has given it.
No other coach in the league history has been able to rein in Bryant and Michael Jordan quite like Jackson has. Thus, it would appear that no one else is as equipped to manage big egos as Jackson is on his way to the mountaintop. He’s clearly “the guy.”