LOS ANGELES — Fresh face offering much-needed hope for the demoralized Los Angeles Lakers fan base? Check.
Part of the Lakers family from prior experience? Check.
NBA coaching experience? Check.
A successful head coach before? Check.
Someone who won't break the bank to hire and commit to, considering it's unclear what free agents might be coming in the future? Check.
Someone in whom Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak believes? Check.
Someone in whom Kobe Bryant believes? Check.
As we mentioned last week, the Lakers have yet to decide what to do with Mike D'Antoni, but if they hire a new head coach, Quin Snyder gets my vote.
Snyder, to sum it all up, is both smart and cool.
That's the kind of combo you want to lead NBA players these days, especially when the atmosphere in Lakerland is, well, awfully stale.
Snyder, 47, is currently an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks, taking that job to work under longtime Gregg Popovich lead assistant and first-year Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. Snyder has ties to Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, has learned from Doug Collins and was a Lakers assistant coach under Mike Brown in 2011-12.
Before you condemn Snyder for that last association, consider he had enough reservations about working for Brown that he broke off after just one season. Lakers players started breaking off from Brown before that and seeking out Snyder more and more late in that season. (And the Lakers followed their lead and broke off from Brown by firing him quite early in the ensuing season.)
Snyder left Brown to follow fellow Lakers assistant coach Ettore Messina, a Euroleague legend who also left after just one season. Snyder was Messina's lead assistant at European power CSKA Moscow, then headed to Atlanta last offseason. Snyder had some feelers from clubs about head-coaching jobs, too.
Snyder's old Duke roommate, Danny Ferry, is general manager of the Hawks. Both of them played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Snyder was also Krzyzewski's assistant coach at Duke before becoming the head coach at the University of Missouri and later the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League.
There has been some thought in the Lakers' inner circle about the sense it would make to hire a young, unproven coach—as the Boston Celtics did in grabbing Brad Stevens from Butler—to grow with the retooling Lakers. If it's a failure and the Lakers have to bring in a recycled, veteran coach to lead some free-agent hired guns in pursuit of an NBA title in 2016-17, then they won't be eating a huge salary by firing a less accomplished head coach.
But the Lakers also don't want to be hiring head coaches as often as they have been lately, preferring some stability. Yes, there is basic logic in thinking Kentucky's John Calipari makes sense as a friend to LeBron James, or Connecticut's Kevin Ollie makes sense as a mentor to Kevin Durant (or hiring Byron Scott for Lakers ties), but the Lakers aren't going to hire someone based on such a singular thread. Maybe one of those college coaches is the best guy overall, in the Lakers' opinion, but there is also a clear fit with Snyder. The reason his star didn't keep rising was a sense that the Mizzou program was out of control, even though the NCAA violations wound up relatively minor when he left in 2006. And now he has valuable NBA experience, too.
Like Kupchak, Snyder has a curious yet practical mind, which is why he, like Kupchak did at UCLA, got his MBA at Duke after his playing days. (Snyder also got a law degree at Duke. You're never too old to keep learning, so go hit the books if you want to keep up, Mitch.)
Another curious, practical sort—Bryant—spent an inordinate amount of time with someone who was supposed to be a lesser assistant in Snyder's one Lakers season. That said a lot.
Snyder knows his way around a rebuild, having been a Duke assistant when the Blue Devils were actually 13-18 before returning to grandeur. Snyder immediately turned around the Missouri program and was with Collins as he jump-started the Philadelphia 76ers in 2010-11 into a playoff team.
If the Lakers aren't going to be able to reload for Bryant in 2014 free agency, it would be nice at least to give him a coach he feels more comfortable with as he resumes his status as the team's centerpiece.
But beyond that, Snyder's blend of energy and authority to inspire players would give the Lakers the sort of immediate makeover they very much need.
Kobe-less, Even at a Charity Event
One day before the team officially became the worst in L.A. Lakers history—the 1974-75 Lakers went 30-52, and this season's team is 25-53—the organization held its 24th annual Lakers Celebrity Golf Invitational and Dinner benefiting the Lakers Youth Foundation.
What could be less desirable than a rainout? For many big-money donors in attendance, the worst-case scenario was having the event—but not having Bryant there.
Bryant didn't make it because of illness. He was still sick and didn't attend the Lakers' history-making 53rd loss of the season Tuesday against the Houston Rockets either.
On the bright side, Lakers forward Ryan Kelly did entertain via rookie hazing at the golf dinner by credibly singing "I Believe I Can Fly." (R. Kelly...Ryan Kelly...get it?)
Lots of Points, but Not Enough
It seems to follow that the more possessions in a game, the more likely the better team shows it is indeed better and ultimately wins. But D'Antoni's style of play is all about more possessions, so the Lakers just hope they get hot and the other team goes extremely cold with all that action.
It didn't happen in that loss Tuesday night: Rockets 145, Lakers 130. Without Dwight Howard's defensive presence (lingering sore ankle, though not painful enough to keep Howard from grinning when Lakers fans gave him attention with a "Coward!" chant), four players scored at least 30 points in an NBA game for the first time in 21 years.
Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, James Harden and Terrence Jones each had at least 30, as did Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson in a New York Knicks-Charlotte Hornets game in 1993.
The Rockets-Lakers game was also the highest-scoring non-overtime NBA game since the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in 2009. That's the pace that the Buss family believed would be fun for Lakers fans to watch in hiring D'Antoni.
We never did get that Kobe vs. Dwight matchup this season with the Lakers and Rockets. Perhaps opening night next season? Or a little Grinch ill will on the Christmas NBA schedule?
Kevin Ding covers the Lakers for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.
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