Rounding Up Usual (And Unusual) Suspects For Lakers Job

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:

Phil Jackson

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.

Mike D’Antoni

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.

Brian Shaw

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.

Jerry Sloan

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.

Nate McMillan

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.

Don Nelson

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.

Chuck Person

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.

Pat Riley

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.

Kurt Rambis

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.

Derek Fisher

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.

Mike Dunleavy

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.


  1. Token says:

    I think the other brown…yup Larry Brown could be a good fit. Think about it…need for respect? He is a HOFer with 2 championship rings as a coach! He will bring the D to the Lakers game, something that they sorely miss!

  2. Turk (not Hedo, but of the same nationality) says:

    Cons for hiring Pat Riley: Internet would blow up. Laughed all morning at that one 😀

  3. tyrone says:

    Wonder how Shaq or Barkley would do if they were to coach. Well Shaq maybe not so much because of the Kobe-Shaq feud that got Shaq in Miami so maybe Barkley since they’re both former superstars.

  4. tyrone says:

    Jeff Van Gundy or jerry Sloan would be a smart move since PR is exec of Heat, Jackson is retired, nelson is questionable. It’d say Sloan cause it’s about time he deserved a championship or a COTY award. Maybe Derek Fisher if he retires as a player since He knows how to work with Kobe during his years with the Lakers and meshes well since it wasn’t too long ago that he was with them.

  5. asdfasdf says:

    please for the love of God please take derek fisher off this list

  6. aloa says:

    WoW!!! what about Larry Brown? not included in the list, c’mon!

  7. Brownie Mars says:

    Let KB24 do the coaching ! It’s nice to see him being a coach and a player at the same time

  8. GniK911 says:

    i suggest lakers try and convince phil for a year.that way nobody will ever question his authority…everybody will respect and listen to him.

  9. Jeffrey Yap says:

    Phil is still my 1 coach but i don’t think it is still possible with his health condition…so sad…

    • tyrone says:

      Yeah how about Hubie Brown who won COTY in 04 no wait he has cancer so I’d say HoF coach Larry Brown, he led the A.I Sixers to the finals in 01 and the 04 Pistons to a championship, and he also led the Bobcats to their only playoff appearance.

  10. Jeffrey Yap says:

    Don’t have much knowledge about coaching skills but the Lakers need a coach that knows how 2 mix players…

  11. JULIO says:

    HIRE A MEXICAN . PROBLEM SOLVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  12. kb24 says:

    what about coach k???

  13. Two Methods of Government says:

    There are only two ways to effective governance … A dictatorship or a democracy.

    Either bring in a coach that evokes awe and respect among the players … Call him Phil Jackson if you will … or bring in a coach who can build consensus.

    Half measures will fall on their face.

    This would be particularly true with a team sinking under its own weight of awe-inspiring names (read egos).

    Hold your urge to scream for a minute – Think … Derek Fisher !

    He can be suited up TONIGHT.
    He can be had for a SONG (he is getting an amazing break and an opportunity to win his sixth … seventh … eight ring as a Laker).
    He is a FRIEND.
    He will not ‘order’, he will ‘suggest’. They will not play ‘for’ him – they will play ‘with’ him. They would be solving problems TOGETHER. It would the first “ALL-PLAYERS TEAM”.
    Under him the bench would EXCEL.

    Okay, now … SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM … with joy, that is !

    • tyrone says:

      That actually could work since Fisher played along with KB, Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and a couple of Laker players so it could work out.

  14. mavs fan says:

    bring d.fisher

  15. Laker Fan says:

    I would like to see D’Antoni to coach the Lakers for the rest of the season.
    He could bring back the Lakers to the new track and even to the finals with his system.

    • tyrone says:

      You’re mad bro. D’Antoni doesn’t apply defense to his system and his system will never win a championship. The best he can get is probably the conf. finals. No defense means no championship. Unless D’Antoni finally realizes the importance of defense, it won’t work. Why was he fired by the Knicks, because he didn’t apply defense to his system that drove Melo mad and thought he was dumb by having Lin lead the team. You might as well bring in D. Fisher 🙂

  16. Drew says:

    Hire John Calipari. Discuss…

  17. Tycoon says:

    Wrong again, Steve.

    Nate McMillan does have a Coach of the Year award.
    I believe it was for the 08-09 season.

    Noob writer.

  18. lenny says:

    how about the guys on tnt and espn. they seem to know a lot about basketball

  19. RememberThisDay says:

    Jim Callhoun???

  20. Girl Knowz BBall says:

    1. Phil Jackson
    2. Pat Riley
    3. Brian Shaw

  21. J says:

    Jeff van G,,is not a bad choice out of this list u know *scratches beard* lol hmm

  22. TTKIN says:

    How in the hell does Jerry Sloan NOT have a COTY award??

    Well regardless, I’d say my num 1 choice is him if Phil aint comin back. Sloan is incredible, and let’s remember, if not for MJ, he mightve had 2 rings by now at least.

  23. Lakers says:

    Pat Riley is the best coach suited for the Lakers. We know that he had been a winning coach for Heat.

  24. larry oconnor says:

    It’s about time Mike Brown was fired! What took them soooo long?

  25. Jose (clipper Nation) says:

    I like Mike D’Antoni to Coach the Lakers. There is no time to experiment with guys who have no experience. This year could be the only shot left to win a title if Dwight does not return. Phil and Jerry Sloan sound like a good choice but thier health is a question mark from what I see as a fan. Mike Fratello excites me because what Shaq said and what I seen Mike Fratello do in the past. This is my top choices for the job as the Lakers coach. 1 Phil Jackson, if not, 2. Mike D’Antoni, if not 3. Mike Fratello and even 4. Mike Dunleevy

  26. Euro says:

    I know everybody would like to see Phil Jackson coach again,but I think that is unrealistic, having in mind his age and health. Also the same about Pat Riley, he is the Miami Heat exec. No way he would even think for a second to take a job. About other candidates, well, i don’t know… Maybe Jerry Sloan.

  27. Oakley34BLAM says:

    Of the above candidates Brian Shaw and Mike Dunleavy seem the most realistic. Jackson, of course, would be the wisest move…but very far from likely. Mike D, well…has none, and- as the author astutely points out- the Lakers are not well suited to his ‘shooter heavy-big man weak’ style of play. A Nash D’antoni reunion would be great to watch though…and could well bear championship fruit. I’d feel bad for him to have to go from the NBAs biggest stage to the OTHER NBAs biggest stage though. He seems like way to straight up a dude to have to deal with such a bright light. Jeff Van Gundy should never coach again (I love the man…and he is an amazing coach…but I would hate to not hear is commentary during games on ESPN). The only job I’d be happy to see JVG take to leave game calling would be Adam Silver’s gig as next commish. Good luck Lakerland.

  28. Bok says:

    1. Jerry Sloan
    2. Mike D’Antoni
    3. Brian Shaw

  29. Pao X says:

    What about Flip Saunder?

  30. Rob K says:

    Stan Van Gundy is a great coach and would bring the Lakers back to winning in a Jiffy. HOWEVER, the fact that Dwight is with the Lakers now (and we know how his relationship soured over time in Orlando), it’s practically IMPOSSIBLE to even think of those two being on the same team again. Too bad, cause Stan is probably the best coaching candidate of all the available ones….