This offseason the Los Angeles Lakers are once again entering familiar territory, as they are searching for their third head coach in the last four seasons after Mike D’Antoni resigned from the position two weeks prior.
The Lakers’ coaching search is wide open at this point with many viable candidates for the job, and as the team intensifies their search 0nce the playoffs reach its conclusion there is one thing they must do when the process becomes a bit clearer, and that is involve Kobe Bryant.
That is something that Bryant voiced his desire during his appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week.
“On the last two they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and D’Antoni, who both failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”
The two previous head coach hires in D’Antoni and Mike Brown did not include Bryant at any point in the process, but rather in each instance he was left out without any notification from the front office on who they were going to choose to become the next coach.
Yes, Bryant is just a player, but he is not just any player as he is the face of one of the league’s most decorated franchises. This is not suggesting giving him the final say on who the next head coach will be, it is just recommending the inclusion of Bryant in the process as this will allow him to give his two cents on what direction the team is heading in.
It has become clear that Los Angeles has missed on their last two head coach hires. With Brown, he was able to lead the Lakers to the second round of the playoffs in his first season, but once the team acquired two additional star players in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, he struggled to make it work from the get-go when he attempted to use a version of the Princeton offense. He was quickly out the door when the team lost all eight of their preseason games and four out of the first five games to start the 2012-13 regular season.
The Lakers were without a coach in early November and had to find a quick replacement with the obvious choice being Phil Jackson, who had led the team to five championships and is regarded as the best coach in NBA history. But the front office chose to go in another direction and hire D’Antoni instead, despite the players such as Bryant and Howard voicing their support of a possible Jackson hire.
With D’Antoni as head coach, the team struggled and had issues permeating all throughout the season due to the conflicting views of the offensive style between the players and D’Antoni. It gave the immediate impression that the Lakers had made the wrong hire.
This is not to blame D’Antoni for the job that he has done, but rather the organization for bringing him in to team with the player personnel built around two big men in Howard and Pau Gasol, who both fit a slower-paced offense that has an emphasis on giving the ball to them in the paint rather than the perimeter.
Despite all this, D’Antoni was able to get the team to the playoffs, but the Lakers’ struggles continued into the following offseason and regular season as Howard chose to sign with the Houston Rockets, and the team suffered the worst season in franchise history in regards to injuries throughout the roster and overall record of 27-55.
This past regular season also included more conflict between players and D’Antoni as Bryant took shots at D’Antoni’s “small ball’ philosophy, and several players such as Jordan Farmar and Gasol calling for an offense that predicated the ball going to the big men in the post.
What this all points to is that the team must make a coaching decision that the players back instead of one that they believe is best for the team, because it is the players who will have to play under that coach. The players must have someone that they believe in, trust, and respect as the head coach of the team. The next hire must also be a coach that the players can connect with and talk to with comfort on a personal level.
This falls on Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to make the right choice for not only the future, but also the team that will be assembled next season, because if they don’t they will be back again in the same position looking for another head coach.
It may be a lot of pressure on the front office to the find the right coach, but there are several qualified candidates such as George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, Mark Jackson and possibly Tom Thibodeau.
There is no doubt the Lakers will have their hands full this upcoming season as the team will likely have a high pick in the upcoming draft and plenty of cap space to spend in free agency, but what lies above the rest will be hiring the right head coach.
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