Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.
The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.
The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons:
Record: 1,155-485, .704, with Chicago and L.A. Lakers. Eleven NBA titles. One Coach of Year award (1996).
Pros: The most successful coach in league history, as close to a sure thing as anyone on the plant in firing up the Lakers’ base. He’s had another of his sabbatical years and might be intrigued by the opportunity to again coach a star-laden lineup, including the best big man in the game and two aging but Hall of Fame-bound guards. There’s also his longtime relationship with Jeannie Buss, which had him showing up at the team headquarters in El Segundo a few times last season.
Cons: Jackson might not want to face topping himself. For all the star power, he wouldn’t have two of the Top 5 players in the NBA anymore the way he did with Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen and Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal. There also are health considerations, in terms of his 67-year-old body holding up to the rigors of the NBA life. And TNT’s David Aldridge is reporting that the Lakers are not seriously considering Jackson.
Record: 388-339, .534, with Denver, Phoenix, New York. No NBA titles. One Coach of Year award (2005).
Pros: Known for his high-octane offensive style, potent on scoreboards and exciting for fans. Established relationships with Steve Nash and Bryant. A Hollywood look and personality for the sidelines.
Cons: The Lakers personnel lacks shooters, integral to D’Antonio’s system at other stops. No track record of making use of an elite big man of Dwight Howard’s abilities. Considered inattentive to defense. Fresh off knee-replacement surgery.
Record: No NBA head coaching experience.
Pros: Former Laker and member of Jackson’s coaching staff late in his tenure. Bryant’s choice to succeed Jackson when the job first opened after the 2010-11 season. Native Californian and heady guard for 13 NBA seasons. Considered for several head coaching jobs, serves as top assistant to Indiana’s Frank Vogel.
Cons: Current Lakers brain trust might not care about a candidate’s popularity with current players. Urgency of the 1-4 start and aging roster, rookie in need of on-the-job seasoning might be a longshot.
Record: 1,221-803, .603, with Chicago, Utah. No NBA titles. No Coach of Year awards (surprisingly).
Pros: Proven commodity. Already a Hall of Famer, one of the most famous coaches in NBA history. Remarkable success in Utah, coaching two mature HOF players (John Stockton, Karl Malone). Demanding work ethic on both ends of the floor.
Cons: Abrupt departure from Utah and no real overtures since about returning. Will turn 71 in March, though still vibrant and fit. Rarely humored big egos in Salt Lake City – Deron Williams’ was enough to send him packing – so the Lakers locker room could devolve into Sloan’s version of hell.
Record: 478-452, .514, with Seattle, Portland. No NBA titles. No Coach of Year awards.
Pros: Valued as a serious, defensive-minded coach. “Student of the game” type from his years as a workmanlike guard for 12 seasons with the SuperSonics.
Cons: Didn’t show a lot of defensive chops in his stint with Trail Blazers. Five playoff appearances, only once advancing to the second round. Not high on the “sizzle” scale, if that’s important to the Lakers after cutting loose from another plugger-type in Brown.
Record: 1,335-1,063, .557, with Milwaukee, Golden State, New York and Dallas. No NBA titles. Three Coach of Year awards (1983, ’85, ’92).
Pros: Celebrity coach with most regular-season victories in league history. Known as innovative, offensive-minded coach from his days with Warriors and Mavericks (including Nash), but strong defensively in his Bucks incarnation. Makes the game fun for players. Big ego could thrive on Staples Center stage. Loves big paydays.
Cons: Officially-officially-officially-officially retired from coaching, by his own admission in advance of Hall of Fame induction in September. History of feuds/friction with management or star players. Will turn 73 in May.
Record: No NBA head coaching experience.
Pros: Building respect as an assistant coach, after playing 14 seasons as a skilled offensive player and marksman with Indiana, Minnesota, San Antonio, Charlotte and Seattle. Interim coaches typically get shot at retaining job if they have instant success. Well-liked by Lakers players. Helpful as big-man coach for Howard.
Cons: Lack of experience. Hiring wouldn’t move needle in Hollywood market after front office dedicated this offseason to doing just that. Best bet for him, in terms of pressure and longevity, would be to interview, land job elsewhere.
Record: 1,210-694, .636, with Lakers, Knicks, Heat. Five NBA titles. Three Coach of Year awards (1990, ’93, ’97).
Pros: He was The Man on the Lakers sideline before Jackson eclipsed him. Huge part of the Showtime legacy that, with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the rest, still ranks as the highlight years in franchise history. Showed late-career chops in leading Miami to 2006 title.
Cons: Internet would blow up.
Stan Van Gundy
Record: 371-208, .641, with Miami, Orlando. No NBA titles. No Coach of Year award.
Pros: Terrific Xs & Os coach. Demanding of players, in sense that highly compensated professionals ought to welcome to reach potential. A great communicator in a voice that Howard already has nailed among his impersonations.
Cons: Despite assurances that they’re “fine,” hard to imagine Howard and Van Gundy ever working again after disastrously squandered 2011-12 season in Orlando. Abrasive style might have other NBA players already hardened in opinion of him.
Jeff Van Gundy
Record: 430-318, .575, with New York, Houston. No NBA titles. No Coach of Year awards.
Pros: Mentored by Riley. Four 50-victory seasons. Nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons. Thrived with big men Patrick Ewing, Yao Ming. Brother of Stan.
Cons: Away from NBA sidelines since 2006-07, serving instead as ESPN/ABC broadcast analyst. Brother of Stan.
Record: 56-145, .279, with L.A. Lakers, Minnesota. No NBA titles. No Coach of Year awards.
Pros: Popular, glasses-wearing, blue-collar forward on Lakers Showtime teams. Assistant coach who stepped in for Del Harris in post-lockout 1999 season. Part “surfer dude,” part basketball scholar in demeanor. A Jackson devotee who tried the “triangle offense” in Minnesota, personnel not withstanding.
Cons: Some discrepancies over the merits of his 32-132 record with the Timberwolves, who might have been a development league team at the time.
Record: No NBA head coaching experience.
Pros: Well-liked and respected former Lakers player. Leadership experience and adversity expert as NBPA president, guiding players’ union through labor negotiations and lockout. Nemesis of several Western Conference rivals. Looking for employment.
Cons: Making a surprise choice would be more out of Jerry Buss’ playbook than Jim’s or Jeannie’s. Still might prefer to play this season.
Record: 613-716, .461, with L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee, Portland, L.A. Clippers. No NBA titles. One Coach of Year award (1999).
Pros: Experienced coach with Lakers pedigree. Replaced Pat Riley in 1990 and posted 101-63 record over two seasons, including a trip to the 1991 Finals. Was 190-106 with the tumultuous Blazers from 1997-2001. Boosted the Clippers from 28 victories in 2003-04 to 47 two seasons later. With a good rapport with Jerry and Jim Buss, as well as with Bryant, Dunleavy was a Lakers candidate before Brown was hired in 2011.
Cons: Fired in 2009-10 and had to sue the Clippers for balance of his contract (who doesn’t?). “Winningest coach in Clippers history” tag (215-326) won’t impress other Staples Center tenant. More recently known for his participation in an ownership group that sought but failed to purchase the New Orleans Hornets.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980.