The Next Great Lakers’ Coach

Other than two interim head coaches (Kurt Rambis in 1999 and Frank Hamblen in 2005) hired to finish out when another head coach had been fired during the season, the Lakers through the last 20 years have always hired NBA retreads as their head coaches. Since 1994 they have gone through five of them (not including another interim coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, who also was an NBA retread) including 11 of those seasons from the immensely successful Phil Jackson. Thus in nine other seasons out of the last 20, four established NBA coaches have, one after another from Del Harris to Rudy Tomjanovich to Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni, failed miserably.

Assuming that D’Antoni will not be asked to return for next season, where do the Lakers


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look for their next coach? Anywhere but on the NBA unemployment lines, or from the college scene.

When Duke got its early knockout punch in this year’s NCAA Tournament, LA sportstalk was ripe with rumors that Mike Krzyzewski had finally had enough of the college scene and was ready to move to the NBA and the Lakers. Totally false. Now, Kentucky alum and former NBA guy Rex Chapman has fueled the fires by stating that Wildcat head man John Calipari was all but signed and sealed for the Lakers. Not true.

Calipari especially would be another horrible choice. While he’s done very well at the college level, he’s been a total failure in past chances in the NBA (72-112 over two and a quarter seasons). In fact, most college coaches fail when they try to move to the NBA. The basketball world is still searching for a second Larry Brown, and it certainly was not Rick Pitino, winner of two NCAA championships but who was 192-220 over his five-plus seasons as an NBA head coach. It was also not Tim Floyd, 385-222 in college but 90-231 in the NBA. Old Timmy just couldn’t motivate those pro players with envelopes of hundred dollar bills like he could as the head man at usc’s trojan brain surgeon u.

So, where TO look? Why on NBA sidelines, of course. Erik Spoelstra, whose Miami Heat are two-time reigning NBA champs, went from assistant to Miami head coach. Gregg Popovich, considered by many as the best there is today in the NBA and who has won four titles with his Spurs, went from assistant to the San Antonio head job. Scott Brooks went from assistant to head

coach at Oklahoma City where his team has improved its win percentage every season since he took over and after negligible success throughout its history has become a powerhouse contender.

Th next great NBA coach will be a guy in his late 30s or early 40s, with three, four, five, six years or so as an NBA assistant. Any less than that, and he is not ready to build a winning team; any more than that and he has not shown enough in the past to merit moving up and likely does not deserve that shot now, either.

Will the Lakers hire that next great coach, or will they go for yet another likely-to-fail retread, or a college coach, out of his element and doomed to failure? We shall see.

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