An argument could be made the head coaching job of the Los Angeles Lakers is the best gig in the NBA. After all, only the Celtics franchise has more tradition. There’s the beautiful year-round weather in California and beautiful people — i.e. Hollywood types — who hang out at Lakers games and with players.
Thus the Lakers should have their choice of some of the biggest names out there to replace Mike D’Antoni even though the team is coming off a 27-55 campaign that was the worst since the team moved from Minneapolis. The Lakers still have cache and plenty of cap room to spend and lure a star or two to play with Kobe Bryant.
Los Angeles is likely to take its time for the search. It’s highly unlikely the team hires someone before learning its fate in the draft lottery — L.A. has a 6.3 percent of getting the top pick — but should have someone in place before June 26 draft. You can be sure that through back channels Lakers officials will reach out to soon-to-be free agent superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Kevin Love to gauge who they “might” want to play in purple and gold.
The co-favorites at 7-2 for the next head coach on basketball odds at Bovada are former Lakers player Byron Scott and current Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie. Scott would be a link back to the Lakers’ glory days of Showtime when he was a guard on those clubs. He had some success as a head coach in the NBA. He led the New Jersey Nets to NBA Finals appearances in 2002 & 2003. Overall he is 416-521 with the Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, which fired him after the 2012-2013 season.
Ollie is the hot name among college coaches right now after leading the Huskies to their surprising NCAA title. He also spent 13 years in the league as a player despite limited talent. Former teammates rave about him — Durant, who can become a free agent in 2016, loves the guy from when Ollie spent 25 games with the Thunder in 2009-10. Ollie might not be ready to leave UConn, his alma mater, but reportedly will listen.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Kentucky’s John Calipari are both 4-1. Thibodeau is under contract, thus the Lakers would need to get permission to speak with him and then give up compensation (lottery pick?). There have been reports of friction between him and the Bulls front office at times. Coach Cal would be the dream hire but has said he’s staying at Kentucky — the Cats are 5-1 favorites to win next season’s NCAA title.
Derek Fisher is 15/2. He’s a former Lakers player, debuting in the 1996-97 season with Bryant, who is still competing with Oklahoma City. Fisher is expected to retire after this season. Former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy is 8-1. He has been offered jobs a few times but this might finally be one that gets him out of TV.
The rest of the candidates are long-time NBA coach George Karl (10-1), former Lakers player and one-time interim L.A. head coach Kurt Rambis, former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins (12-1) and ex-Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy (12-1).
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