Lakers' Next Coach Must Be a LeBron James Magnet

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a game  at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Mike Brown is out for the Los Angeles Lakers, and it's time for someone that appeals to LeBron James to succeed him.

Whomever the Lakers decide is the man for Brown's old job must also be the man who can help lure The Chosen One to Tinseltown in 2014. That's the year LeBron is eligible to become a free agent. That's the year that Los Angles is already looking toward, already gearing up for. And that's the year Los Angeles hopes to stage a James-driven free-agency coup of its own.

Many scoffed at the notion. How could the Lakers, a team with a $100-million payroll this season afford to line the pockets of the greatest player in the game, let alone convince him to leave the comfort of Dwyane Wade's city?

It's a fair question, one that warrants plenty of investigation. However, the due diligence has already been done; the financial verdict has already been rendered; and courtesy of a slew of expiring contracts, the Lakers will have more than enough cash to sign James. And that's assuming that they retain Dwight Howard, as well.

No, the difficult part, the one that must be handled with the utmost of care, is the latter half of that quandary: How does Los Angeles convince James to spurn the Miami Heat the way he did the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Plenty of factors will come into play there. Supporting cast, for one, will be an issue. LeBron isn't about to abscond from a star-struck roster to play on a docket chock full of Metta World Peaces and Steve Blakes. That would be an even worse decision than the Decision itself.

For the Lakers, though, that is almost a non-issue. They have the ability to re-sign the NBA's best center after this season, at a higher rate than anyone else in the league can. And by 2014, Steve Nash will still be on the books for another year and Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant—free agents—will be free to re-sign at lower pay scales to chase more rings.

Los Angeles will also have plenty of money—$10 million to be exact—left over after inking James, leaving it free to chase a prolific supporting cast.

So the roster isn't the problem. The Lakers have plenty of options and can easily prep the state of their on-court personnel in anticipation of James' arrival.

They don't have to worry about the allure of their market, either. Or the climate. Or the appeal their franchise has in general. They've got it all.

Except a head coach, the last important piece to this complex pursuit.

Though a bounty of potential names has been thrown around, Los Angeles has yet to name an official successor.

Which is good. It means the Lakers are taking their time. 

And take their time they should; do the due diligence they must. Because their lack of a coaching fixture could be the difference between staying the course they set for 2014 and formulating a not-so-effective Plan B.

Simply put, the Lakers need to ensure their next coach is a LeBron magnet, someone whom he respects; supports; and, most importantly, would want to play for.

No matter how talented Los Angeles' roster may be by then or how appealing the market in general is, the team's endeavor will ultimately prove fruitless if the right man for the job, the right man for James, isn't put in place.

Sure, the Lakers could easily throw a filler in now and worry about finding their ticket to LeBron later, but is starting a game of musical coaches really the right play here?

Absolutely not. Instability is the enemy of progress; uncertainty is the antagonist of free agency.

James is not going to want—especially when it involves him leaving his cushy gig in South Beach—to latch on to a franchise in flux. In any capacity. He'll want to be assured that he's entering an easy-win situation.

Like he did in Miami.

Bear in mind that Erik Spoelstra was the head honcho for the Heat for a two full seasons before James and Dwyane Wade staged their free-agency coup. No, he wasn't the most recognizable of coaches, but he was someone Wade could sell LeBron on, someone he could easily say was a coach who would let James do his thing.

The Lakers need that as well, someone about whom Howard could potentially tell James what Wade could tell him. Someone not only who will give James the reigns to the team, but whom LeBron won't butt heads with.

A name like Phil Jackson allows intrigue to run rampant, but is someone like him the best fit for a Lakers team that wants make a push for James? Not only does his triangle offense not provide the free-flowing environment LeBron thrives in, but who's to say two years from now, pushing 70, Jackson will still want to coach? What if he physically can't?

Then there's Jerry Sloan to consider. He's one of the greatest coaches the league has ever seen. However, he left his last post with the Utah Jazz because he reportedly clashed with a modern-day superstar in Deron Williams. Is he really the right man to lead multiple stars, including the biggest one in the game, when he couldn't handle one?

And how about Mike D'Antoni? James thrived in his offensive system during the Olympics, and his laid-back approach is likely to entice the King. But is his offense-first, defense-never attitude systematically capable of gaining the support of a player like LeBron who values two-way performances?

These are questions Los Angeles must consider if it is serious about luring James out of Miami. He's not going to come play for a team which doesn't personify continuity; he won't come to Los Angeles to play for a coach he doesn't respect.

And he won't come to the Lakers to play for a coach who doesn't respect him, who doesn't meet his standards.

So enjoy the search for a new coach, Los Angeles. Take solace in knowing Brown—who was fired in Cleveland with the hope that it would keep James in town—won't stand in the way of a marriage between LeBron and a purple and gold jersey.

But choose his successor carefully.

Because someone else can.



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