Mike D’Antoni was seemingly on borrowed time from the moment he limped into the role of Los Angeles Lakers’ coach last season (he literally limped, too, having undergone knee-replacement surgery weeks earlier). He inherited a star-packed team that started sluggishly, feuded with players, struggled to make his up-tempo system stick, and was essentially relegated to the role of referee in the battle of egos between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.
Despite all that, D’Antoni still managed to guide the Lakers to the playoffs. But on Wednesday, following a disastrous (and injury-wracked) second season as Lake Show coach – their 55 losses were the most in franchise history – he resigned, much to the delight of Lakers fans … and Magic Johnson.
But now that the Notorious M.A.D. is gone, who will lead the Lakers? Phil Jackson is currently attempting to resuscitate the Knicks, and Magic, well, he didn’t do so well the last time the team handed him the reins. Luckily GM Mitch Kupchak probably won’t have to look for long: the Lakers’ job is one of the premiere positions in all of sports, and here are five candidates he should probably consider.
Lionel Hollins: After guiding the Memphis Grizzlies to a 56-win season and a spot in the Western Conference Finals last year, the man who is arguably the best coach in the history of the franchise was unexpectedly canned. As it turns out, Hollins was literally caught in a numbers game; the team’s new owner wanted to move the franchise in a more analytical direction, so Hollins was out. He deserves a franchise that understands games are won on the basketball court, not Excel spreadsheets, and having an owner with a bottomless pit of money doesn’t hurt either.
Frank Vogel: It’s wrong to talk about a guy who already has a job, but Vogel’s probably toast if the Pacers drop their series against the Hawks. And knowing that the Lakers are now looking for a coach, Vogel may very well be hoping he does get fired. Who wouldn’t trade polar vortexes, miles of corn and being forced to coach a bum like Roy Hibbert, for 300 days of sunshine, ocean views and the chance to team up with Kobe?
Mark Jackson: Here’s another head coach who may find himself unemployed at the end of his team’s playoff run. The New York native has had plenty of success in the Bay, leading Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs the last two seasons, but he’s continuously butted heads with the organization and, most egregiously, “the Logo.” So moving four hours south would be perfect for him. After all, “extortion plots” are an everyday occurrence in L.A.
Byron Scott: This guy truly understands what it means to be a Laker and fans would love to see one of the team’s great players come back to the family. The thing is, every team he’s ever coached has gotten tired of him and he’s been fired from every head coaching job he’s had. But hey, he’s a Laker!
Kobe Bryant: Bean signed a $48.5 million contract extension while he was still recovering from a torn Achilles. Swag that man out! He also pretty much said that D’Antoni didn’t deserve another year coaching the Lakers and even Pau Gasol remarked that Kobe would be the only reason he’d consider coming back next year. It’s obvious who’s really running things in L.A., so why not make Kobe the player/coach, à la Bill Russell? At least the post-game pressers would be entertaining.