Los Angeles Lakers: Potential Head Coaches

Whether it’s because of Kobe Bryant’s absence, the multiple injuries that have plagued the team throughout the season, the lack of defense in Mike D’Antoni’s system or the poor management in the front office, the Los Angeles Lakers need to make a change.

Los Angeles Lakers’ fans will not allow there to be another season such as this– a season in which the Lakers were the first team eliminated from playoff contention.

If I were the General Manager for the Lakers, the first move I’d make this offseason is getting rid of head coach Mike D’Antoni. He just isn’t a good fit for this franchise. I understand that not having Kobe and playing with an injury-plagued, young roster hasn’t allowed him to show Lakers’ fans all he’s got, but in a big market like Los Angeles, failure isn’t acceptable no matter what the circumstances.

In this article, I will explore possible head coaching candidates for the Los Angeles Lakers. Ultimately, the Lakers need a coach who has succeeded in past coaching positions and can build a team that will win.

Stan Van Gundy

Stan Van Gundy began his NBA coaching career in 1995 after 14 years of coaching in college basketball. He served as an assistant for the Miami Heat from 1995-2003 and was later named the head coach until 2005. His most recent head coaching position was with the Orlando Magic from 2007-2012. He has a head coaching record 578-371 and led his team to the playoffs 7 out of the 8 seasons as head coach.

Although he has never won an NBA title, he’s had decent success in the postseason. He’s worked with superstars such as Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard and has consistently made the playoffs– something the Lakers are definitely looking for in their head coach. He’s the type of coach that commands the attention of his players and expects them to be disciplined. Although he may be a good fit for the current Lakers’ squad which has limited talent, his relationship with the Buss family may be an issue– he was the one who advised Dwight Howard to leave the Lakers.

Jeff Van Gundy

Los Angeles Lakers

Jeff Van Gundy

Jeff Van Gundy, the younger brother of Stan Van Gundy is currently a TV analyst for ESPN. However, before his color commentating career began, he was the head coach of the New York Knicks from 1996-2001 and then the Houston Rockets from 2003-2007. He has a head coaching record of 748-430 and led his team to the playoffs 9 out of the 11 seasons as head coach.

Like his brother, he has never won an NBA title, but consistently made the playoffs. Jeff Van Gundy is known for having an imaginary mind and utilizing his players to the best of their abilities. He’s had decent success in the playoffs, but was never able to get past the 1st round in his time with the Houston Rockets– that may be an issue for the Lakers. However, he may be able to attract decent talent to play alongside Kobe Bryant. At the end of the day, Jeff is a veteran NBA coach who’s been in the spotlight in both New York and Houston.

Larry Brown

Larry Brown is the oldest and most experienced candidate on this list. At 74 years old, he is currently the head coach of Southern Methodist University (SMU). He has won 2,338 professional games in the American Basketball Association (ABA– yes, he’s that old) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is the only coach in NBA history to lead eight different teams to the playoffs. He is also the only coach in history to win an NCAA national championship and an NBA championship.

There’s no doubt that he is one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball. He’s coached the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and most recently the Charlotte Bobcats. Despite coaching for over 30 years, he has won only 1 NBA championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he’s a very talented coach with a lot of playoff experience, his age, his inability to stay with one team and his current position at SMU might all be reasons for the Lakers not to bring him on. However, who knows what Jim Buss will do next.

Byron Scott

Byron Scott, a former player for the Los Angeles Lakers, was also an NBA head coach for the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets (now known as the Pelicans), and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his 13 seasons as head coach, he has posted a record of 937-416 and has led his team to the playoffs four times. Although he never won any titles as a coach, he won three titles as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers and led the New Jersey Nets to two NBA Finals appearances. Although his coaching record isn’t appealing, his ties to the Lakers and the fact that he coached rather bad teams and had a fair amount of success might help his coaching candidacy for the Lakers.

George Karl

George Karl is one of seven coaches in NBA history to record 1,000 wins. But to be exact, he has 1,887 wins (and 1,131 losses). He’s been an NBA head coach for 25 seasons and coached teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Seattle SuperSonics, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Denver Nuggets. He has consistently made the playoffs, only missing them 3 seasons. However, he has never won an NBA title and in those 22 playoff appearances, his teams haven’t gone past the 1st round 14 times. He’s a fantastic coach and is loved by his players, however, he has never coached a superstar such as Kobe Bryant. He has a great offensive mind and is known to attack the paint and look for the high-percentage shots. He would be a good fit for the Lakers, but will need to be able to handle the big city of Los Angeles and the superstars on the roster.

Lionel Hollins

He’s not as well known as the other coaches on this list, however his experience doesn’t fall short of the rest of the above mentioned coaches. Lionel Hollins has been an NBA head coach for 7 seasons, coaching the Vancouver Grizzlies (1999-2000) and later the Memphis Grizzlies from 2004-2005 (coached 4 games) and 2008-2013. He had made the playoffs three times in his last three seasons. He has not won an NBA title, but has gone as far as the Conference Finals. Hollins would be a good candidate for the Lakers position because of his defensive system. As Dan Favale writes in his article on Bleacher Report, the Memphis Grizzlies transformed into defensive juggernauts under his tutelage”. Hollins has a simple offensive system, but with talent like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and other potential stars, the combination of his defense and offense may be the winning recipe in Los Angeles.

Jerry Sloan

You don’t hear his name being thrown around often in the same sentence as the Los Angeles Lakers, but Jerry Sloan is as deserving as anyone else of this job. Former NBA commissioner David Stern called Sloan “one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history”. Sloan has a career regular-season win–loss record of 1,221–803, placing him third all-time in NBA wins. Unlike Larry Brown, Sloan doesn’t jump from team to team. He was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1979-1982 and the Utah Jazz from 1988-2011. In his career, he has only missed the playoffs 6 times, but has never won an NBA championship. However, he has coached many superstars including Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek. Sloan’s teams were always tough and opponents feared facing them. He has the experience, the winning formula and can handle the star players to lead a team like the Los Angeles Lakers.

Other Possible Candidates: Nate McMillan, Mike Woodson, John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski

At the end of the day, the decision is up to Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. Actually, it probably comes down to Jim Buss, and so far he hasn’t done a great job in managing the team and creating a winning formula.

My Prediction: I think the Lakers will go after a well-balanced coach who has playoff experience and can handle a big market like Los Angeles and the superstar players like Kobe Bryant, and other potential stars who may come to the Lakers. Of the 10-plus names mentioned above, I think it’ll come down to Jerry Sloan, George Karl and Jeff Van Gundy. But if I was being given a $1 billion by Warren Buffet to correctly predict who the next Lakers’ head coach will be, I’d go with Jerry Sloan.

Follow @USC_Aposhian for more updates.

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  • DanFromMV

    I can’t see Jerry Sloan having the patience with a terrible roster. That is all the Lakers will have for at least 3 – 4 years (sorry Kobe). Whoever coaches the team will have to get used to losing until they can rebuild. I’d guess Byron Scott for his ties to the team. Nate McMillan also has a history of getting a lot out of a relatively weak roster. Maybe in few (several) years when they are good, a coach like Jeff Van Gundy would make them contenders

    • Nerses Aposhian

      I can see where you’re coming from. However, I think the rebuilding process will start this off-season and the Lakers will have a chance to at least make the playoffs. I want a coach who will control the team and gain the players respect. Unfortunately, it seems as though Jim Buss wants to hire a coach that he can personally control. Fingers crossed that he makes the right decision this summer.

    • Marty Susman

      I agree, Jerry is not going to takes this team.

      • Nerses Aposhian

        Well chances are this isn’t going to be the team next season. There are a lot of changes that will be coming. I’d be surprised if more than three or four players on the current roster are on next year’s squad.

  • Marty Susman

    Jeff has a great personality & is funny. He would make a great coach but I think Jim Buss will go with Byron Scott..

    • Nerses Aposhian

      Scott wouldn’t be a bad choice at all, especially because he has the experience and the players will like him. But nobody really knows what’ going on in Jim Buss’ mind.

  • John Fleischmann

    Jeff would be the worst possible choice, no real knowledge of Basketball, sadly he is an Idiot!!! Jerry Sloan would be a coach for the future, once Kobe retires, to build the Lakers into a Champion again.

    • Nerses Aposhian

      I think Sloan or Scott are the best options. However, Sloan’s age might play a factor.

  • ROBERT C HUGHLEY

    Lionel HOLLINS
    has one NBA CHAMpIONSHIP RING. He was the starting 2 guard on the 1977 Portland Trail Blazer team, beating Dr. J AND HIS 76′S .

    • Nerses Aposhian

      He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. Check out my newest articles about the potential coaching candidates. Thank you for reading!

  • Clay Driskill

    recently watched exit interview of Mike D’antoni. best word to describe it: evasive. Then Mitch steps in and having watched both of them back to back you can see why Jim hired them. They are the same birds of a feather. Protecting each other and yes men for Jim. No wonder Jim would not hire Phil and have someone who disagrees with him.
    Prediction: Pau and Kobe will end up in New York with Melo and Lamar Odom. And Jim Buss will continue to let his ego become the downfall of a proud franchise.

    • Nerses Aposhian

      I disagree with the Pau and Kobe in New York statement. That will never happen. Gasol maybe, but Kobe definitely not.