That faint sound of fireworks you heard on Sunday night was not an early 4th of July celebration, but rather Los Angeles Lakers fans celebrating the news of the team not picking up the option on head coach Byron Scott.
It is well known that Scott was not well-liked amongst most of the Lakers fans who were ready for the team to move on. There were some questions as to whether or not they would let Scott go, but ultimately the move was made to go in another direction.
The question now becomes, where do the Lakers go from here? Two of the most popular candidates, Tom Thibodeau, and Scott Brooks have already taken jobs elsewhere, and both were rumored to have an interest in the Laker job had it come open sooner.
Despite those guys being gone, the Lakers are expected to have a long list of candidates for their opening, and there are some excellent options available, so lets take a look at the top options available.
Sure his time in Cleveland didn’t end well, but he did go 83-20 and lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his first season as head coach. He has proven he can handle intense media scrutiny as coaching LeBron James in his Cleveland return put him under the microscope from the beginning.
It’s also important to note that Blatt was not supposed to coach this LeBron-led super-team, but rather was tabbed to lead a young Cavs team led by Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins. Blatt’s offensive system would likely be perfect for the Lakers young players, particularly the guards.
Anytime the Lakers have had a job opening in recent years, Calipari’s name has come up, but now might be the time for Cal to make his return to the NBA. His first NBA run didn’t go well, but he has proven his coaching acumen in his return to college, making four Final Fours in seven years at Kentucky with one National Championship and a 217-47 record.
Many point to Calipari simply having the best talent at Kentucky as he always has one of the best-recruiting classes, but that would be selling him short as he always gets everyone to buy into his system and, most importantly, play defense at a high level. He has done everything he can in college; a young, talented Lakers team could be the thing to bring him back to the NBA.
Steve Kerr was the coach to take the Golden State Warriors over the hump and win an NBA Championship, but it was Mark Jackson who laid the groundwork for that franchise. Jackson molded and built up Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson and both credit him for how much he helped them. Jackson also laid the defensive foundation in Golden State, which is much-needed with this young Lakers team.
Jackson has a way of connecting with players that others don’t. He instills discipline and guys play hard for him every night. He isn’t the best Xs-and-Os coach out there, but he wins games and has proven he can build a young team into a contender.
Messina is viewed as one of the greatest European coaches of all-time, winning the Euroleague Championship four times, and being named Euroleague Coach of the Year twice. He served as a consultant on Mike Brown’s coaching staff with the Lakers, so the ties are there, and he has spent the last two years as an assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff with the San Antonio Spurs.
He has been linked to other coaching jobs and is one of the most popular assistant coaches in the league. He is known to have an excellent basketball mind with a creative offensive system that could bring out the best in the Lakers’ young talent. He may not have the big name of other candidates, but his pedigree and resume are as good as anyones.
For those hoping a coaching hire can help lure Kevin Durant to Los Angeles, Kevin Ollie would be the best choice for that, arguably even more so than Scott Brooks would have been. Durant and Ollie have a great relationship dating back to Ollie’s time as a player with the Thunder, and Durant has spoken highly about the impact Ollie had in the locker room.
Ollie has proven himself as a winner at UConn, winning a National Championship in only his second season as head coach and has a .688 win percentage in four years. Whether or not Ollie would leave UConn, where he has massive support and a long leash, for the uncertainty of the Lakers remains to be seen, but he does have ties to the LA area, graduating from Crenshaw High School.
Jeff Van Gundy
When it comes to instilling discipline and defense, and changing the culture of a young franchise, Jeff Van Gundy may be the most qualified of all the candidates. Van Gundy has the name to satisfy the masses, a proven track record of developing players, and an NBA Finals appearance under his belt.
Van Gundy would come in and immediately command the respect of the entire roster and instill a toughness to the team that he is known for. A worry for Van Gundy would be that he prefers to do things his way and that may not always go with the way the Lakers tend to do things. With how things have gone recently for the franchise, however, that may not be a bad thing.
Everyone’s favorite candidate and one who has been mentioned as a potential replacement well before the job came open, Walton is sure to be one of the favorites to land the job should he want it. Walton basically checks all of the boxes the Lakers look for in a coach.
Walton is a former player with strong ties to the organization, he’s a young voice who relates and connects with players, and he has some coaching experience, albeit not much. Walton leading the loaded Warriors team to a 39-4 record is a much different job than running this young, unproven Lakers team. But there is no doubt he will be a top candidate.