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It's Over. Now Hire a Coach
The worst Lakers season in histroy is mercifully over. And now it's time to move forward. LAist will be regularly chyming with our advice throughout the offseason. We've already suggested the Lakers hold on to Kobe Bryant, trade Lamar Odom and Caron Butler if they can (made more difficult by Odom's shoulder surgery), and bring in a new head coach to replace Frank Hamblen.
But today we'll focus on the last point, because it all starts with leadership.
It is commonly believed that the Lakers need a "big name" coach. It is after all a big time franchise. But we disagree. Successful Laker coaches like Pat Riley and Mike Dunleavy weren't the biggest names available, and they did fine. But also, there aren't big names available.
LAist doubts Phil Jackson is coming back to LA, especially after his tell-all book. While our first choice is Larry Brown, we doubt that will happen. Brown will either stay in Detroit or retire. Regardless, the Lakers can't wait a month and a half to see how far the Pistons go just to gauge Brown's interest.
Flip Saunders is an excellent coach, but we see him picking Cleveland over LA. After that, who else is there? No big names. Don Nelson and Chuck Daily are retired. Lenny Wilkens hasn't won in a long time. Rudy Tomjanovich was hired last year because he was the only big name available, and he turned out lousy.
Now, Mitch Kupchak seems to have an affinity with college coaches. His flirtation with Coach K is well-known, but he also reportedly reached out to Tom Izzo and fellow UNC-alum Roy Williams. LAist doubts either of those two fine college coaches would leave a game they dominate, especially considering the track record of college coaches in the NBA. LAist would heartily endorse though another Carolina coach in Dean Smith for the job, if he's up for it. No head coach in college has produced more NBA stars than Smith, and few were closer to their players. In an era of basketball where players are seemingly less mature, maybe a class act like Dean Smith would be perfect. Alas, that seems unlikely.
Then there is Kurt Rambis, who coached the team in 1999, and would have stayed on had Phil Jackson not wanted to come to LA. Rambis is more than ready for an NBA head coaching job again, and the Lakers gig just might be the right fit.
We also like another ex-Laker coach in Del Harris. Yes, that's right. Del Harris. The Lakers clearly need a good X's and O's coach. And someone who can oversee a rebuilding process. They need an older coach with gravitas who can control Kobe to some extent. And Del Harris was there at the start of Kobe's career. He also rebuilt the Lakers once before, so maybe he can do it again. If Harris (now a Mavericks assistant) is interested, the Lakers should give him serious consideration.
One other name we'd like to throw out there is Eric Musselman. Now a Memphis Grizzlies assistant, Musselman is one of the brightest young coaches in the game. LAist loves what he did at Golden State, and he was fired far too soon there. He's a rising star. The Lakers might be considered out of his league at this point, but in reality, the Lakers are in the lottery.
Two other names that you might hear batted around are Paul Silas and Maurice Cheeks. LAist has always like Paul Silas, and he might be a decent fit. But the fights he picked with Jeff McInnis and some of his bench hurt the team. As for Cheeks, we're skeptical of any guy dubbed a players coach to come in. Cheeks did overachieve in Portland, but is he really the right guy to control Kobe? We're not so sure.
Who do you think should coach the Lakers?
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