The Los Angeles Lakers made the decision on Friday to fire head coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start. The next decision management must make is to find a long term coach, and former Utah Jazz man Jerry Sloan is the right choice for this team's current makeup.
After an offseason that included the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to a team already glorified with aspiring champions, the 1-4 start simply wasn't enough to keep Brown on board to fix what's broken.
From poor defense to injuries, this Laker team has had only one real game with its starting lineup. That was opening night against the Dallas Mavericks. Nash was hurt in the team's next game, a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Still, owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak expect more from the league's biggest payroll. Giving Brown the ax was one way to remind fans and players that this season is one of the most make-or-break years in franchise history.
Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the team in the interim. The next move includes finding a head coach, and there are some attractive names on the market for one of the NBA's highest-profile jobs.
Mark Stan Van Gundy off any list due to the Howard conflict. Same goes for his brother. Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw and Mike D'Antoni have also been linked to the team, along with Sloan, who stepped down in the middle of the 2010-11 season just prior to the Deron Williams trade to the then New Jersey Nets.
Former Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal didn't waste any time in helping the team in an impending search. In a tweet following the news of Brown's firing, he laid out who the team should go after.
Brian Shaw , mike dantoni , mike Fratello or jerry Sloan should b considered as lakers coach. And of course the the great Phil jackson— SHAQ (@SHAQ) November 9, 2012
Sloan is an attractive option for a number of reasons.
For starters, the no-nonsense coach personifies discipline and toughness from his players. It was a mark of his teams for years in Utah, lead by Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone.
There's certainly reason to think that Los Angeles isn't the place for instituting that kind of attitude. But after looking at the results of Brown, who is known as a "players" coach, it's clear the level of work ethic has come into question by people at the top.
There would be no question of that with Sloan. His offense also plays more to the strengths of the current construction of the Lakers roster.
Brown was criticized for installing the Princeton offense to a team that features Nash at point guard. In an effort to take some of the scoring load off Kobe Bryant, Brown wanted more even distribution of the ball instead of having Nash run the pick-and-roll.
Sloan uses a variation of the flex offense, a system that emphasizes off-the-ball cuts and screens to get open. It prioritizes a guard and a post on one side of the floor in a two-man game (Stockton to Malone!) while letting the rest of the team work to get open.
It's a difficult offense to defend with so much movement, and one that would play to the strengths of this team. Nash would take on that Stockton-like role, while having both Pau Gasol and Howard to work with. Not to mention some guy named Kobe working off back-door screens and cuts.
In his days with the Jazz, Sloan was known as a old school guy with a heart for his players. His exit with the team was a messy one. The Jazz employed him for 23 years before his resignation, and some cited the unwillingness of Williams to run the offense as the culprit.
He's been out of the spotlight since then, though his name is always one of the first mentioned when a coaching change happens. However, as noted by Jazz radio personality David Locke, there's certainly no guarantee he'd even be open to coming out of retirement.
I just spoke with Jerry Sloan he has no comment on the situation with the Lakers— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) November 9, 2012
That shouldn't be a discouraging sign for the Lakers. Even if he did have interest, Sloan isn't the type to voice his personal decisions without careful thought.
While the coaching change certainly serves a shock meant to spark this team, management doesn't have much time to make a firm decision. Candidates that are desired are necessarily available, and that could limit the wish list.
If Sloan is out there waiting for a call, it should be one of the first Kupchak and Buss make.
His no-nonsense attitude would make for a relationship with Nash similar to John Stockton, and there's no doubt Gasol and Howard combined make for one Karl Malone. It's not the 1990s anymore, but Sloan has plenty of coaching magic left in his tank.
He and Phil Jackson both have a compelling argument for who's best for the Lakers. Sloan's toughness gives him the edge, and hopefully the inside track on the first phone call.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.
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