The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the premier franchises in the NBA, let alone professional sports. The franchise has accumulated 16 championships, which is second-most in NBA history, and features two future Hall of Famers on its current roster. As a result, one would think that Hollywood is the place to be in the league. However, despite the prestige that comes with being a Laker, the team has been unable to find a new head coach for almost six weeks since former head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned.
The team recently stated that the process for finding a new head coach is going slow in order to keep the team’s options completely open in free agency this summer. More specifically, the Lakers are targeting superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this offseason. This may be the reason that the Lakers want to share with their fans, but it could very well be the fact that interest in the job is lacking.
Because most of this season’s roster consisted of free agents, next season’s roster only has three players right now: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre. Both Bryant and Nash’s best days are behind them and have only a year or two left, while Sacre is nothing spectacular. Nick Young can opt-out of his contract this summer, but it is likely he will return. Otherwise, next season’s roster for the Lakers is a complete mystery. The combination of an uncertain future with a poor record of 27-55 this season could be the real reason why the Lakers have yet to find a new coach.
Another reason why the Lakers could be moving slow is because their recent history of selecting head coaches has been poor. The only two coaches who have lived up to the championship expectations of the Lakers have been Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.
However, there are some viable options out there for the Lakers to consider.
The likely favorite for the position is Byron Scott, who was an integral part of the Showtime Lakers’ championships in the 1980’s. Scott knows well the Lakers’ winning culture and was teammates with general manager Mitch Kupchak. Needless to say, Scott has a strong relationship with both Kupchak and the Buss family. Scott coached the Brooklyn Nets when they resided in New Jersey to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, but lost both times. Along with coaching the Nets, Scott has also coached for the New Orleans Pelicans (when they were the Hornets) and the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he took New Orleans to the playoffs twice. Scott is more than qualified for the job and is the popular choice among Lakers fans. Most importantly, the Lakers will need to see if Scott is the popular choice in the eyes of Bryant.
Another possible candidate is Mark Jackson, who can be seen currently calling the NBA Finals for ESPN. Known for being a players coach, Jackson compiled a 121-109 record and two playoff appearances in three seasons with the Golden State Warriors. Despite his popularity with the players, Jackson was shown the door after this season for issues regarding his relationships with assistant coaches and the Warriors’ front office. In addition, Jackson has received no phone calls from teams in need of a new coach according to sources. Jackson’s past history of clashing with his superiors could be a deal breaker, especially when the expectations of the Lakers’ front office are championship or bust.
A third candidate with an outside chance at the job is Lionel Hollins. Hollins, who did not coach this season, was the head coach for the Memphis Grizzlies for five seasons and took Memphis to the playoffs in the last three years of his tenure. After last season, Hollins and Grizzlies’ ownership decided to part ways. However, the physical style of play that Hollins instilled in Memphis brought success to a franchise that had not seen much.
Nevertheless, the Lakers’ decision should be made sooner rather than later in order to move forward with personnel decisions for next season. The Lakers said that the team needed to make a splash with its next coach and, so far, the Lakers have not even touched the water. I mean, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers; the interest in the job should be there. Shouldn’t it?