Bernie Bickerstaff: Lakers Interim Coach Is Stopgap for Big-Name Signing

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Los Angeles Lakers interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff addresses the media prior to the start of the game against Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

While NBA veteran Bernie Bickerstaff was a smart hire as an assistant for the younger Mike Brown heading into his second season coaching for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, few thought the journeyman executive would find himself as the stopgap after Brown’s firing (h/t USA Today.)

Especially just five games into Bickerstaff’s first season as a Lakers assistant.

Now, as Bickerstaff takes the helm of one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, the realization that he won’t be there for very long is starting to set in. Los Angeles is searching desperately for a new coach, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein:

RT @ramonashelburne: Bickerstaff has only committed to a couple games. Process should move quickly

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 10, 2012

The Lakers will try to just keep the season afloat—L.A. started 1-4 under Brown—while the organization searches for an eventual replacement, but it will be a struggle that will continue even when the team finds its new head coach.

Unless, of course, the Lakers hire a big-name coach that will change the culture in L.A. immediately.

Of all the names rumored so far, the most ideal fit would be one of the two biggest coaching legends in the history of the sport, Jerry Sloan or Phil Jackson (h/t HoopsWorld and The New York Times.)

Sloan is a legend that perfected the pick-and-roll style of offense over his decades with the Utah Jazz, but his recent retirement makes him an intriguing short-term option for this season and maybe next.

The former Jazz head coach knows the Lakers team inside and out after playing them repeatedly during his time in the NBA, but it will be the allure of winning a title that could coax the wily veteran back to the bench.

As intriguing as the Sloan option is, the No. 1 choice for the Lakers must be Phil Jackson.

The precedent of allowing Jackson to leave only to ask for his return was set in 2004 when the team chose not to re-sign the legendary coach.

One year later, the Lakers came knocking at Jackson’s door once again.

With Kobe Bryant leading a cast of characters full of ego and talent, there is no better head coach to get all the pieces fighting for the same cause in Los Angeles than Jackson. With his ties to the organization and his familiarity with Bryant, the legendary coach could return and quickly turn the ship around.

The only certainty at this point is that Bickerstaff is nothing more than a lame-duck interim head coach. It's just a matter of time before he finds himself with Mike Brown once again.

This time, though, in the unemployment line.


Check back for more on the National Basketball Association as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NBA page to get your fill of all things basketball.