The two most desirable head coaching jobs in the NBA are vacant. The New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers have an empty seat on their bench, but the New York Knicks have already shown their cards with all of the rumors surrounding Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson frequently meeting together. Kerr is familiar with the Zen Master’s philosophy on how to play basketball and on how to run the triangle offense, so it is only a matter of time before the Knicks new general manager holds a press conference introducing Steve Kerr as the next head coach of the New York Knicks.
The Los Angeles Lakers, on the other hand, are still in the process of searching for a head coach. It was a little over one week ago that former head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned as head coach of the Lakers. D’Antoni was still under contract with the Lakers, but it was clear that the pressure got to him and that he was practically forced out of Los Angeles when they did not offer to extend his contract. Furthermore, when Magic Johnson and the entire Los Angeles fan base are publicly criticizing you and celebrating your exit, it does not make you feel particularly welcome anymore.
Without an NFL team, Los Angeles is mostly a basketball city (sorry Dodgers, Angels, Galaxy and Kings), so it is safe to say that the head coaching seat for the Los Angeles Lakers is the hottest one in the NBA. And if you can’t take the heat, you need to get out of the city.
As of right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are an incomplete team. After having one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Lakers now have over half the team off the books and have the funds to sign a max contract player next to Kobe Bryant. Additionally, Kobe should be 100% healthy by the start of next season, so there is no reason why the Los Angeles Lakers cannot have one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history. So, this vacancy is not only of the most prestigious ones in the NBA, but it is also one of the most desirable positions in the NBA. With the right person at the helm, the Lakers could be right back into the playoff and championship mix.
This is a list of the Top 10 most likely candidates for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job that could be filled in the next 2-3 weeks.
10. John Calipari
Calipari keeps saying that he is content coaching college basketball at Kentucky, but the Lakers have not made their pitch to him yet. If the right deal is packaged for Calipari, it may be too sweet for him to turn down. Calipari has led Kentucky to three final fours in the past four years, so he does have a terrific situation for a college head coach, but the opportunity to coach in the big leagues may intrigue him more than he knows. Calipari has coached in the NBA before for the New Jersey Nets for a few years, but only led them to a 39% winning percentage. So, he either wants to get as far away from the NBA as possible or he may want redemption with a situation like coaching the Lakers.
9. Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy had a messy breakup with the Orlando Magic, but he has been totally content relaxing with his family in sunny Florida. However, the basketball bug in SVG may bite him this summer with the vacancy in Los Angeles. With Dwight Howard out of Los Angeles and the roster starting from scratch, SVG may be more open to coming to Los Angeles than ever before. SVG took the Orlando Magic to the playoffs every year that he was coaching there, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2008-2009. SVG has the experience and the know-how to take a team deep into the playoffs and with his two-year sabbatical he should be fresher than ever to take on one of the most stressful jobs in the NBA.
8. Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher is still playing in the NBA, but the current back-up point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder could quickly follow in the footsteps of Jason Kidd. Fisher may not have any coaching experience, but in some senses, he has been coaching his entire career. Fisher is a veteran savvy point guard with tons of basketball intellect and IQ. Fisher’s close relationship with Kobe Bryant is well documented, so if he has Kobe in line, everyone else will follow. If Fisher does decide to call it quits, look for him to make a pitch to general manager Mitch Kupchak the same way Jason Kidd did to Billy King.
7. Roy Williams
Roy Williams has been a college head coach for the University of North Carolina since 2003 with an overall winning percentage of 79%. Williams may have no coaching experience in the NBA, but he has the type of basketball mind that can easily translate into the NBA. He has led two different college teams (seven different times) to the Final Four and clearly knows how to establish a winning culture. What makes Williams intriguing in particular is his ability to recruit as a college coach. Many of Williams’s former players are now in the NBA and he has a good standing relationship with all of them, so it would not be inconceivable to pull some of his former players to Los Angeles, which would not be a hard sell at all.
6. Kevin Ollie
If Kevin Ollie wants to coach in the NBA, this is the best time to do it. After winning the NCAA tournament this year after just two years of coaching at UCONN, Ollie has proven to be a successful head coach. Additionally, Ollie is familiar with the NBA world. He was a durable role player for 14 years in the NBA. Clearly, Ollie knows how to play the game and how to coach the game. He may have no NBA head coaching experience, but he has all of the potential and talent to be a successful NBA head coach.
5. Lionel Hollins
After winning 56 games and leading them to the Western Conference Finals, Lionel Hollins was fired from the Memphis Grizzlies last year. For some reason, leading the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals was not enough to bring him back. Hollins has taken the 2013-2014 season off, but he is primed and ready to join the coaching ranks once again. Hollins is a defensive minded coach, which is the exact opposite of Mike D’Antoni, so Hollins could be a good change of scenery for the Los Angeles Lakers who are trying to establish a defensive mindset once again.
4. Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson was the victim of an unjust firing. He was employed by an owner – Joe Lacob – who thinks he knows the game of basketball just because he plays pick-up ball at Stanford every weekend. And because Jackson and Lacob butted heads on how to play basketball, Jackson was fired. Of course, there were a lot of other strange things happening within this franchise such as secret recordings and assistant coach Brian Scalabrine being reassigned, but the fact of the matter is, the players loved Coach Jackson, and in particular, Stephen Curry loved Coach Jackson. Furthermore, in the three years that Jackson was at Golden State, he led them from 23 wins in his first year to 51 wins by his third year. Additionally, Jackson lives in Southern California. Do you think the Lakers don’t know that? I think not. Nor Cal may have just packaged So Cal the best gift that they could have received.
3. Jeff Van Gundy
Jeff Van Gundy has carved out a nice career for himself as a commentator for ESPN, but much like his brother, he has always had the itch to coach. JVG has not coached since 2007 when he was the head coach of the Houston Rockets, but JVG has always been a hot commodity in the NBA and has been patiently waiting for the right situation. Now that one has opened up, this may be the perfect opportunity for JVG to come back to a very good situation.
2. George Karl
There is no more veteran head coach on the free market than George Karl. Karl has never won a Finals, but he does have the credentials and the resume to lead a veteran squad to the playoffs. If the Lakers get a rookie coach for a veteran squad, it could quickly go sour. Karl, on the other hand, is as veteran as it gets. Furthermore, in Karl’s last season, he led the Nuggets to 57 wins and a Coach of the Year award, so Karl has shown that he can win a lot of games, something that the 27-55 Lakers desperately need.
1. Byron Scott
The former Laker has always bled purple and gold even when he was playing for other teams and coaching for other teams. Byron Scott has not coached in the NBA in a couple of years, but he has plenty of head coaching experience and even took the New Jersey Nets to the Finals in back-to-back years. Furthermore, he and Kobe Byrant have a very good relationship, which will bode well for the chemistry of the locker room. Additionally, the city of Los Angeles has a fondness for Byron Scott, so the city will embrace Scott very quickly without being overly reactionary with the signing of someone they are unfamiliar with.