When Mike D’Antoni resigned as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach last week, it didn’t come as much of a surprise.
The Lakers had their worst finish in franchise history (27-55) since moving to Los Angeles from Minnesota before the 1960-61 season. D’Antoni stepped down from his Lakers’ tenure with a 67-87 record and 0-4 mark in the playoffs.
Since Phil Jackson left the team in 2011, the Lakers have had three coaches; Mike Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff (interim) and D’Antoni. They combined to go 113-117 over that span and 5-11 in the playoffs. There are plenty of accomplished coaches available, but the Lakers shouldn’t make a decision anytime soon.
This is the most important coaching decision for the Lakers in franchise history. Since Jim Buss took over for the late great Jerry Buss, the franchise has taken a big step back. The Lakers have the most successful franchise in NBA history and missed the playoffs this season for only the sixth time in their storied history. Jim Buss must make a statement with this coaching hire.
During this coaching search, the Lakers have one of the best recruiting tools for impending free agents. They have the ability to ask free agents if they have any preference on their new coach. Could this have the power to sway the likes of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony? Possibly, but unlikely.
The Lakers should have their sights set on the following summer’s free agent class, which includes All-Stars Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Lakers don’t only want to make a big splash in free agency, but also in hiring their next head coach.
They must weigh all of their options and pick someone they know will succeed. They can’t afford another coaching failure. Taking their time will allow them to survey this summer’s and next summer’s free agents to gauge their interest in playing for certain coaches.
With that being said, the Lakers should have the pick of the litter when it comes to qualified head coaches and there isn’t a shortage of them. There’s already rumors swirling about Steve Kerr, Lionel Hollins, Kevin Ollie, George Karl, Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy to name a few.
Out of these coaches, Thibodeau is the best option, but it will be tough to pry him away from the Chicago Bulls. Same goes with Ollie. He’s looked at as the next up-and-coming coach. Ollie just won the NCAA National Championship at his alma mater, so it will be hard to sway him away from Connecticut. These coaching rumors will only continue to grow and won’t stop until the vacancy is filled.
Van Gundy could be a great fit in Los Angeles. He learned under one of the most respected and accomplished coaches in NBA history, Pat Riley. Van Gundy helped rebuild the Miami Heat into a championship team in three years, though he resigned at the beginning of that championship season. Then he took over a Orlando Magic team and brought them to the NBA Finals in two years. Van Gundy’s fiery personality could be the key to the Lakers’ future success.
This will be the busiest offseason in a decade for the Lakers. They have a head coaching vacancy that needs to be filled, the majority of their roster is headed towards free agency and they will likely have a top six pick in the NBA Draft.
If that isn’t enough work for the next head coach in Lakerland, he will also have the pressure of turning around a team coming off their worst season in franchise history. It should be another entertaining summer in Hollywood.