It’s nearly August and the Los Angeles Lakers still haven’t found a head coach for next season. What’s the hold up?
For one, they’re the Lakers, and they’ve been a mess ever since the great Jerry Buss passed away. Every decision they’ve made has been put under the microscope. That’s not changing any time soon. The Lakers know they have one chance to get this thing right after striking out on their last two coaching hires, Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. I mean, everyone knew those guys weren’t going to succeed… everyone outside of the Lakers’ organization, of course.
Mike Brown didn’t get much a fair shake when Steve Nash and Dwight Howard were added to the team in 2012. He also didn’t do himself any favors by trying to run the Princeton offense with players who were obviously not going to succeed in the Princeton offense. It just wasn’t happening.
What was he supposed to do, though? Howard was recovering from back surgery and Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol were all physically declining in a not-so-graceful manner.
Brown was fired five games into that season. Instead of bringing back Phil Jackson, like it was widely assumed, Jim Buss took a shot at his brother in-law and hired the Gandalf of transition offense, Mike D’Antoni.
Obviously, that situation was never going to work out. The coach made famous for his “7 seconds or less” offense was not going to be able to play his style with four aging veterans as the core of the team and a dominant post tandem. D’Antoni did it anyway, and we all know how that turned out.
That’s what brought the Lakers to this point. So, here they are, two years later, coming off their worst season since the 1959-60 season with no head coach. What are the Lakers waiting for?
Training camp starts at beginning of October. That’s basically two months away, and the Lakers don’t know what kind of offense they’re going to be running, what the defensive scheme will be, what the rotation is going to look like. It’s a mess.
One thing is for certain, though, they’re going to be bad. And, not just like a bad team; they’re going to be like New-Orleans-Saints-fans-with-bags-over-their-faces bad.
All the coaches who were on the Lakers’ “wish list” know that, too. There’s a reason John Calipari, Kevin Ollie, and every other name the Lakers tossed around as a possible candidate rejected them. At this point, I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to coach the Lakers, other than Byron Scott.
Supposedly, the Lakers have interviewed Scott three times, which no one can feasibly understand. The Lakers had to have a good idea of what he could do for the team prior to the first interview. It’s not like Scott is a new coach in the league. He’s been an established coach for 13 seasons in the NBA. Interviewing him three times proves the Lakers are reluctant to hire him. Or… they’re waiting for someone. Who could that person be?
A year ago, the answer would be obvious: Phil Jackson. That bridge was completely set on fire and has now fallen into the abyss since Buss and co. snubbed Jackson with the D’Antoni hire.
That leaves few realistic options for the Lakers, other than Scott, who seems to have no problem being dragged around while the Lakers exhaust every other resource to find a coach. All signs point to one thing I’m incredibly excited about: Player-coach Kobe Bryant.
It’s a fantastic idea! There would be nothing better than Kobe Bryant taking the bull by the horns and just running the team completely. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s capable of doing it, and the product would be that much more entertaining than Scott trying to control a team with Bryant, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, and Jeremy Lin. There’s literally no offense suitable for those three players to be on the court at the same time. It’s going to be terrible regardless of what happens. It’d be so much fun with Kobe as coaching and playing at the same time.
If I was Bryant, there’s no way I’d let the Lakers hire a coach. Who knows more than him about basketball? Maybe a handful of guys. But, who can actually control Kobe Bryant? Only Kobe Bryant. It makes too much sense for this not to work.
From an all-time perspective, Bryant then becomes immortal, if he becomes a player-coach. Who cares if he actually wins a title? It would add another wrinkle to his legacy unmatched by anyone except for Bill Russell, who led the Celtics to two NBA championships as a player-coach. Was Michael Jordan a player-coach? Nooooooppppppeeee…
There’s literally nothing that could go wrong with Bryant playing and coaching the Lakers simultaneously. The Lakers would be in the news every single day throughout the whole NBA season. At this point, it’s about exposure for the Lakers, not winning. It’s brand management, not competing for championships. The more times the Lakers are on national TV and in the news, the better it is for the organization. It’s perfect.
All right, maybe I got a little carried away with the Kobe player-coach thing. I apologize. BUT, you have to admit that it’d be one of the best things to happen to the NBA short of LeBron James returning to Cleveland. One of those has already occurred. Why can’t the other happen, too?
In all seriousness, there’s only one person the Lakers are waiting for, and he happens to coach the team across the hall from the Lakers: Doc Rivers. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that if Donald Sterling is the owner of the Clippers by the beginning of the season, Rivers is likely leaving the Clippers. It’s yet to be determined whether Sterling will be the owner, but it’s definitely a possibility. That leaves the door open for Rivers to leave on his terms, and why wouldn’t he want to stay in L.A.? In the same building?
Maybe Rivers is interested in the Lakers. Maybe he isn’t. No one really knows yet, but there’s no doubt there is a correlation between the Lakers’ hesitancy to commit to a coach and what’s going on with Sterling and the Clippers. That’s the only feasible answer for what’s happening with the Lakers’ coaching search.
The Lakers will be awful next season, and everyone knows that. It doesn’t matter who the coach will be. The Lakers see an opportunity to benefit from their cross-town rival (can we call them rivals yet?), and they’ll wait as long as possible if the light at the end of the tunnel is a siluoette of Doc Rivers.
That’s what the Lakers are waiting for, a chance at Doc Rivers.