When the Lakers take the court Friday night to take on the banged up Golden State Warriors, Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Los Angeles Lakers.
Who will coach the team in a couple of weeks is a different question entirely.
The Lakers have fired Mike Brown — when Kobe gives you a death stare it is a DEATH STARE. The Lakers have said they are making a big, national search — which means they are spending to bring in a big name (they just bought out four years of Mike Brown). Before they decide who they hire the Lakers management needs to decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward, what direction to go. Two years ago when Brown was hired it felt more like the Lakers defining themselves as who they were not going to be — they were not Phil Jackson and the triangle. His presence was purged from the organization on several levels.
Here’s a quick list of guys the Lakers could get:
Mike D’Antoni: Lots of Lakers fans asking for him, I don’t think he gets it. On the plus side, he has a great relationship with both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant (remember Kobe grew up in Italy when D’Antoni was a star player over there). He brings a fun and entertaining style of basketball. Although, we can seriously debate whether this roster, outside of Steve Nash, is suited to play D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. This is an old and slow Lakers team. We saw in New York how things went for him with a roster poorly suited to his needs. Also, his teams never even reached the NBA finals, thanks to Robert Horry’s hip.
Most importantly, there is this from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network:
Brian Shaw: This is the guy the Lakers players wanted to replace Phil Jackson, and it would have made sense if the Lakers wanted continuity. But Jim Buss wanted to go another direction, to put his stamp on the organization. Shaw is currently a Pacers assistant coach and after interviewing him and saying no so they could hire Brown, would Lakers management really admit that was a mistake and hire Shaw now? Plus, Shaw has never been a head coach and you’re going to hand him the keys to this car and it’s high-powered engine?
Jerry Sloan: The old-school, hard-a** long-time coach of the Jazz would bring some discipline and accountability to a Lakers roster that seemed to be lacking it. He loves the pick-and-roll and the Lakers have the personnel to kill with that play. But Sloan is not young, had trouble getting along with a star player in Utah (Deron Williams) and brings a flex offense that also can take a while to learn. The guy can win, he is loyal, but does he fit with management and the players?
Nate McMillan: The former Sonics and Blazers coach is well-respected by players if not Portland ownership. His teams were notoriously slow paced, which certainly would give the Lakers a style to stick with. However no team of his ever finished in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession). Could he do better with Dwight Howard in the mix?
Stan Van Gundy: Um… no. He’s a fantastic coach, but did you watch him and Howard in Orlando and how that went down?
Jeff Van Gundy: His teams always defended hard but were not offensively creative or entertaining (as the Lakers prefer). Plus he seems happy broadcasting, making this a long shot. Still, I love the idea of seeing Jeff Van Gundy grabbing on to Dwight Howard’s leg during an on-court fight just for old time’s sake.
Flip Saunders: Don’t laugh — yes he struggled in Washington but he has won with veteran teams. Not a guy that brings a big presence and structure, he’s more easy going and a players’ coach. A long shot.
Phil Jackson: I know a lot of Lakers fans want to see this happen, but I can’t picture it. For a few reasons. First, when he left more than a year and a half ago, you got the sense he was done with being on the sidelines. He was done with the grind of coaching — long hours, lots of travel, too many short hotel beds and massive egos around. Does he really want to coach again.
The bigger issue is that Jim Buss desperately wanted to put his own stamp on the franchise after Jackson left. It wasn’t just him a lot of people — people who had been with the Lakers for many years — were let go (with the impending lockout used as the excuse). In even a bigger way than bringing back Shaw, bringing back Jackson would be to admit a mistake. I’m not sure Lakers management does that even if Jackson wanted to return. Which he may or may not, he can’t exactly coach via Skype from Montana.
That said, at his press conference Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Jackson is “not coaching you’d be negligent not to be aware” and at least consider it.