May 1, 2014, 2:24 AM EDT
Mike D’Antoni is gone in Los Angeles — Lakers fans want to make Thursday a national holiday of celebration. Even though much of it was not his fault, D’Antoni had become the whipping boy of Lakers fans, the guy whose head had to roll (and he certainly made his share of mistakes and had his share of problems on the job). As proof Lakers fans are ecstatic check out this “classy” tweet from Magic Johnson.
Ding Dong the witch is dead….
Don’t expect the Lakers to move quickly here, and expect them to cast a wide net and talk to a lot of people. Early buzz is they are focused on the draft (where they will have a Top 9 pick) so there is almost no chance a coach is hired before the NBA Draft lottery May 20. They could hold out longer, even past the June draft or later (in theory the Lakers could try to sell a big-time free agent with the idea he would have input on a coach, but they aren’t even giving Kobe Bryant that input).
When the Lakers do hire a coach, who will they choose? It’s impossible to say (other than “not Phil Jackson,” plus along those lines Stan Van Gundy told Eytan Shander of NBC Sports Radio “I don’t anticipate them contacting me.”). So here are seven names to watch.
1. Byron Scott. For their last two coaches management went outside the “Laker family” and went with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. Both of those failed miserably. Scott is a former Laker who twice coached the Nets to the NBA Finals (with Jason Kidd). More importantly, he is a Buss family favorite. He’s a guy that can burn out players and he’s had less success in recent stops, but he comes with one other big perk — a great relationship with Kyrie Irving (he coached him in Cleveland).
2. Lionel Hollins. If you want the anti-D’Antoni this is your guy — he is old school, hard knocks and likes to play slow. He’s also good at building a culture and developing players, as we saw in Memphis. All that said, his old school ways seem an uncomfortable fit with the Lakers organization. Plus, Jim Buss wants to win while being entertaining, and Hollins wants a grinding team.
3. John Calipari. No, it’s not happening, he’s even said as much , but you can bet World Wide Wes will throw it out there. If one job could lure Calipari out of Kentucky and to the NBA it would be this one — and he’s a guy with great player contacts all over the league, a guy players love to play for.
4. Kevin Ollie. If the Lakers are going to go the college route — I doubt they are, but let’s play the hypothetical game — the guy who just led UConn to a national title is the man they chase. A lot of NBA GMs have him on their radar. He’s a well respected NBA veteran who has shown some coaching chops. Here are two reasons to take this seriously: First, he’s a Los Angeles guy, he played his high school ball at Crenshaw high; Second, Kevin Durant speaks very highly of him and how as a veteran Ollie taught KD, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to be professionals. If you’re trying to lure Durant out of Oklahoma City in 2016 when he is a free agent, having Ollie as your coach would help.
5. Steve Kerr. He has no coaching experience but he’s got a championship pedigree and is a former GM. In LA you need a coach who can deal with the crush of media, keep the fans happy and still coach. Kerr has the potential to be that guy… I still don’t love the fit, but I could see why you have an interview. Kerr also wants to stay on the West Coast — he played his high school ball at Pacific Palisades and he currently lives in San Diego — so the Lakers may be more tempting than the Knicks.
6. Jeff Van Gundy. By law his name has to come up in every major coaching search. It will come up here, but I’m not sure he leaves the booth for the sidelines again, especially not for the rebuilding project that is the Lakers right now. The bigger problem is if he does return he’s not just going to want to coach — he will want player/personnel say. The Lakers have Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss for that, the power structure is set. Not sure there is a real fit here.
7. George Karl. He likes to play up-tempo, entertaining basketball, he’s good with the media and he would build a culture with the young players the Lakers have/will bring in. The one problem here is the same as Van Gundy — he would demand a lot of say over the roster. The Lakers aren’t going to surrender it.
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