Ranking the Top Options to Replace Mike Brown as Lakers Head Coach
Well, Lakers fans, it's finally happened, albeit a lot earlier than anyone expected.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, head coach Mike Brown has been fired on the heels of tonight's game against the Golden State Warriors. No immediate replacement has been named, but it has been reported that assistant Bernie Bickerstaff will take over on an interim basis.
Who replaces Brown in the long-term will be a hot topic of debate moving forward. In an earlier report by ESPN's Marc Stein, a list of potential replacements in the event of Brown's firing was discussed. From Lakers legend Phil Jackson to the offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni to the always animated Van Gundy brothers, the battle for the Lakers' head coaching position has no clear-cut winner.
With so many big names available, it will be hard for GM Mitch Kupchak and team owner Jerry Buss to reach an ultimate decision. That said, these are the top guys for the job.
8. Stan Van Gundy
Head Coaching Record: 371-208
However, Van Gundy was fired from the Magic after last season, and a lot of it had to do with his relationship with Howard. In fact, he even told ESPN's Ian O'Connor that the All-Star center wanted him fired.
On top of that, despite a good coaching mind, Van Gundy's offense in Orlando tended to be a bit one-dimensional. More often than not, he relied on Howard to shoulder the load on both ends of the floor. Who's to say that he wouldn't do the same with Kobe Bryant?
Still, all drama aside, Van Gundy would be a solid option to coach the Lakers out of their funk. He isn't the best man available, but he is certainly capable of getting the job done.
7. Nate McMillan
Head Coaching Record: 478-452
McMillan has a lot of experience on the sideline, having spent time coaching the Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trail Blazers. He has a reputation for getting the best out of each and every one of his players, which would bode well for some of the Lakers' younger players like Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill.
The only real mark against McMillan is that his playoff record is a subpar 14-20. Of the five times he has taken a team to the playoffs, a first round elimination has occurred four times.
Still, he would have a great team to work with in the Lakers, with more talent at his disposal than he has ever had before. Given the opportunity, he could accomplish some great things.
6. Brian Shaw
Head Coaching Record: N/A
Shaw has no head coaching experience, but he has a special relationship with the Lakers. He played for the team from 1999-2003 and served as an assistant coach for them from 2004-2011. He knows the franchise's culture and the fans very well and would be a fresh and familiar face on the sidelines.
He is currently working as an associate head coach for Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel. It's a good job, but nothing like working for the Lakers.
Shaw received plenty of experience under Phil Jackson, and while he is relatively young for a head coach at just 46 years old, he has paid his dues and is certainly deserving of a promotion.
He knows the Lakers well but can't prove it unless he gets a chance to step into the spotlight.
5. Jeff Van Gundy
Head Coaching Record: 430-318
Van Gundy has an impressive coaching resume, with a decade of experience running the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. In the lockout-shortened 1999 season, he helped the No. 8 seed Knicks make it to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.
Van Gundy would be a good fit in Los Angeles, though he does represent something of a risk. He coaches an isolation game with a heavy focus on defense, which would be ideal for a player like Dwight Howard. However, it should also be noted that he hasn't coached since 2007 and his offenses tend to be a bit one-dimensional.
Nonetheless, he is one of the most passionate men in the game and his fiery attitude would be ideal for a Lakers team that has looked lethargic five games into the new season.
4. Mike D'Antoni
Head Coaching Record: 388-339
One of the greatest offensive coaching minds in league history, D'Antoni should be considered for the Lakers' head coaching position for one reason: the team has Steve Nash as its starting point guard.
D'Antoni worked with Nash in Phoenix for four years, making the Conference Finals twice. His run-and-gun game could help the Lakers set scoring records and get everybody involved on the offensive end.
However, based on D'Antoni's time with the New York Knicks, Kupchak and Buss should only hire the man if they're absolutely sure that he's the right man for the job. His time with the Knicks was marred by underachievement and drama with star forward Carmelo Anthony. The highly publicized feud between the two ultimately caused D'Antoni's resignation.
Given how Kobe Bryant has a massive ego of his own, one has to wonder if D'Antoni would be a good fit. Still, it wouldn't hurt to give the offensive guru a one-year deal.
3. Flip Saunders
Head Coaching Record: 638-526
Saunders currently works as an analyst for ESPN, but is wasting away in the studio. His head coaching experience goes back to the 1995-96 season, when he replaced Bill Blair as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
From that point on, in every full season Saunders coached in Minnesota, the Timberwolves made the playoffs. The only problem was that of the eight times he coached them to the postseason, seven trips ended in the first round. The eighth time, Minnesota finally broke through to the Conference Finals.
Saunders fared even better when he went to coach the Detroit Pistons, when he led the team to the Conference Finals in each of his three seasons before being fired due to what GM Joe Dumars called a need for a "new voice."
When he went to the Washington Wizards, he simply had too many young players and no veteran leadership on his roster, so it's no wonder that he didn't do well there.
In Los Angeles, however, he would have a great team at his disposal. With his intense and balanced approach to the game, there's no telling how far he could take them.
2. Phil Jackson
Head Coaching Record: 1155-485
Already a legend in Los Angeles, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Kupchak and Buss looked to bring Jackson back for a third stint coaching the Lakers. In his first tenure with the team, he led them to three consecutive NBA titles before stepping down in 2004.
He was replaced by Rudy Tomjanovich and sure enough, in his one season away, the Lakers missed the playoffs and the longtime Rockets coach resigned midseason.
Upon his return, the Lakers were immediately back in contention and won two more titles.
Given how the team has a true point guard in Nash now and its best center since Shaquille O'Neal, it would be exciting to see Jackson—and his triangle offense—make a comeback.
1. Jerry Sloan
Head Coaching Record: 1221-803
Sloan was head coach of the Utah Jazz for over two decades, but resigned in 2011 following an alleged clash with star point guard Deron Williams. No Hall of Fame coach deserves to ride off into the sunset under those circumstances, so it's only right that Sloan get a shot at redemption.
Keep in mind, this is the same man who made the Jazz perennial playoff contenders and made stars out of Karl Malone and John Stockton. Led by this deadly one-two punch, the Sloan-led Utah squad made it to the NBA Finals twice, in 1997 and 1998. And were it not for a certain someone, he could already have several rings on his fingers.
Sloan would have an incredibly talented squad to work with in Los Angeles, with a Stockton-caliber point man in Nash and a bevy of scorers in Bryant, Gasol and even Howard.
Get him the job, and the possibilities would be endless.