Los Angeles Lakers: The search for D’Antoni’s successor

“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” is what I began to sing when news broke out that Mike D’Antoni had resigned as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After taking over the Lakers early in the 2012-2013 season, D’Antoni finished with a 67-87 win-loss record.

Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times)

D’Antoni’s resignation brought about mixed feelings. Lakers guard Jordan Farmar said, “All of this is crazy and unexpected, don’t know what to say”. Jodie Meeks added, “Nothing but great things to say about him, man. Loved playing for him and wish him the best! Would play for him any day”!

However, not everyone was disappointed. Lakers legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson posted a tweet stating the following: “Happy days are here again! Mike D’Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier”!

Fans were the most ecstatic. Twitter blew up and Lakers Nation seemed lively yet again.

But what happens now? Just because D’Antoni is gone, doesn’t mean the problem is solved. In fact, it means that the problem is bigger and the right solution is necessary to move forward and bring back the winning tradition for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Who will become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers?

On March 18, I wrote an article titled “Los Angeles Lakers:Potential head coaches“. I wrote the article assuming and hoping that the Mike D’Antoni would no longer be the head coach of the Lakers– my wish came true.

In the article, I mentioned names like the Van Gundy brothers (Stan and Jeff), Jerry Sloan, Byron Scott, George Karl, Lionel Hollins and a few others. I ultimately predicted that Sloan would be the most likely candidate. Based on my poll results at the end of the article, over 25% of the 1,240 responders agreed.

However, since I published that article and since Mike D’Antoni’s departure, a few things have changed and the potential candidates have become more clear. There are a few names on my potential coaching list that remain the same, but there are a few additions as well.

Byron Scott is still high on my list. He isn’t the most successful coach in terms of winning percentage on my list, but his connection to the Lakers works in his favor. He is a safe choice for the Lakers, but whether or not he is the right coach will be determined during the season. This begs the question– do the Lakers want to make a safe choice or do they want to take a risk that can have a huge pay-off or fail miserably?

Speaking of taking a risk, Kevin Ollie and John Calipari would be risky hires. They are the head coaches of UCONN and Kentucky, respectively, and their teams were just recently in the NCAA Championship game. For those who don’t follow college basketball, UCONN, Kevin Ollie’s team came out on top. Ollie and Calipari have both been mentioned as potential coaching candidates because they are up-and-coming coaches.

Los Angeles Lakers

Will the Lakers take a risk on Calipari (left) or Ollie (right)? [Photo Credit: Bleacher Report]

Calipari is one of the biggest names in college basketball.  He has made the Elite Eight seven times over the last 10 seasons, including 4 Final Four appearances and a national championship. He has coached many elite players including Derrick Rose, John Wall and Anthony Davis. Calipari has previous experience as a head coach for the New Jersey Nets. He had a 72-112 win-loss record. With the success he’s had in the last 10 seasons in the NCAA, it won’t be surprising if the Lakers take a chance on him.

On the other hand, Kevin Ollie is a young coach who has been the head coach at UCONN for only two seasons. In his second season, he won the national championship. Ollie’s best days are ahead of him and there’s no doubt he has a future as an NBA head coach. The question is whether or not it’s the right time. The Lakers are a perfect fit for Ollie. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended Crenshaw High School. More than that, Ollie played 13 seasons in the NBA and will have no trouble getting along with the players. With a lot of changes coming to the Lakers’ roster, a fresh start with a young coach who will build great rapport with his team might be the way to go. And something tells me he would getting along very well with Kobe Bryant, but who knows.

Another new addition to my list is the Chicago Bulls head coach, Tom Thibodeau. There’s no doubt that Thibodeau is the best candidate for the job, but the problem is he already has a job and snagging him from the Bulls is going to be a huge task for Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak. If Kupchak can pull it off, he will be the most loved person in Los Angeles. Thibodeau is an intense coach who is well-respected by his players. In his past 4 seasons as the Bulls head coach, he has led them to the playoffs, even with the absence of Derrick Rose the past two seasons. In 2011, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year. He is a defensive minded coach and more than that, he is a fantastic leader. Another upside to Thibodeau is the fact that he has worked with big named talent before as a result of his assistant coaching experience for Team USA.

The final addition to my list is Derek Fisher. Yes, you read that right. Derek Fisher.

Fisher is retiring after this season and will definitely be taking the path to coach in the NBA. Last season after Jason Kidd retired, the Brooklyn Nets took a risk and hired him as their head coach. The Lakers might do the same if they’re willing to take a risk.

Fisher is a leader– he always has been. Of the 18 seasons he spent in the NBA, he played 13 years for the Lakers. He knows the culture, the history, the management and will get along very well with the players. He is very close with Kobe which can be seen as a positive or negative. It’s a good thing because Kobe and Fisher have a close relationship. The downside is Kobe would be playing FOR Fisher as opposed to playing WITH him. It can raise an ego issue, one which would be a detriment to the team.

Coaches such as Lionel Hollins, George Karl and Jerry Sloan are still on my list, but their stock has gone down. This time around my prediction is easier to make. I think the best candidate for the job is Tom Thibodeau– there’s no doubt about that. He would come in, take control of team and immediately turn things around. If the Lakers can find a way to move him from Chicago to Los Angeles, he is the no-brainer pick. However, because the chances of that happening are unpredictable, the most likely candidate, in my opinion is Kevin Ollie. He is the young, he has an L.A. connection and he is on the rise. He can grow with the team and be a great long-term investment.

We don’t know which way the Lakers will go, but they have great options to choose from.

Let me know what you think. Follow @USC_Aposhian on Twitter for more updates and take the poll at the end of this article.


Los Angeles Lakers: Who should stay for next season?

Los Angeles Lakers: Potential Head Coaches

  • Anthony

    Why has Hollins’ stock gone down?

    • Nerses Aposhian

      Not entirely sure. I think he’s still a good candidate, but there’s been more talk about names like Thibodeau and Ollie which are overshadowing names like Hollins and Scott and Karl.