Report: Lakers Want 'Splash' with Next Coach, Target John Calipari, Kevin Ollie

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari shakes hands with Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie before the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With the Mike D'Antoni debacle officially off their hands, the Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to move as far from that nightmare as humanly possible.

That attempt will reportedly include the franchise looking to "make a splash" with its next hire, sources told's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. The two names atop their current short list come from the college ranks: Kentucky's John Calipari and UConn's Kevin Ollie.

The team plans to "at least gauge their interest in the job," sources told the ESPN scribes, but the Lakers are focused "on the draft and free agency" until they can "get a better sense of the marketplace."

Calipari may have already provided some insight into that search by proactively tweeting his commitment to his current squad:

The fact that an NBA coaching opening wouldn't move Calipari's needle is entirely predictable. He guided the then-New Jersey Nets to a 72-112 mark during a two-plus season stint in the late 1990s and has since built a perennial power in Lexington.

His Wildcats suffered a six-point loss to Ollie's Huskies in the 2014 national championship and have once again reloaded their ranks for the 2014-15 campaign. Not only did Kentucky land three of's 24 five-star recruits (center Karl-Anthony Towns, forward Trey Lyles and guard Tyler Ulis), it also received a lift from the return of potential first-round picks Willie-Cauley Stein, Alex Poythress and the Harrison twins (Andrew and Aaron).

The NBA allure for Ollie could shine a little brighter, though. His team lost two NBA-bound starters (senior Shabazz Napier and junior Deandre Daniels) and landed just one recruit from Rivals' top 150 (guard Daniel Hamilton, 14th overall).

Ollie played 13 seasons in the league, last suiting up for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009-10. He reportedly made quite an impression on MVP front-runner (and free-agent-to-be in 2016) Kevin Durant, a fact that Stein and Shelburne write is "bound to make the promising young coach...a target of any NBA team with aspirations of trying to steal Durant from the Thunder in free agency in 2016."

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 01:  (L-R) Kevin Durant #35 and Kevin Ollie #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder take a break from the action during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 1, 2009 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Th
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

The Lakers, who have no money on the books beyond the 2015-16 season, are sure to be one of those teams.

LA's coaching search is expected to include a number of names, including former Laker and current Thunder point guard Derek Fisher. The 39-year-old "will also be considered if he's indeed interested in making the immediate jump to coaching," Stein and Shelburne wrote.

Other potential targets reportedly include Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Dunleavy, Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis. Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times added Billy Donovan, Lionel Hollins, George Karl and Stan Van Gundy to the list.

Outside of possibly Donovan or the Van Gundy brothers, though, I'm not sure any of these coaches would qualify as a splash hire.

D'Antoni resigned from his post Wednesday, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, reportedly (and understandably) "dismayed" that the franchise hadn't picked up his team option for the 2015-16 season. Considering the team is coming off its second-worst campaign in franchise history (27-55), it's hard to envision what, if anything, could have netted him an extra year on the job.

"Where the Lakers go from here is simple; back to school,"'s Sekou Smith wrote. "College, specifically, to grab Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski."

Coach K might be the standard-setter for a splash hire, but Stein and Shelburne reported "the team is not expected to pursue" him.

This could be an exhaustive (or, at least, time-consuming) effort by the franchise's choice. Sources told ESPN that the team might leave the position unfilled should a possible free-agent addition (LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony perhaps) say "he would consider coming to the Lakers if the coach of his choosing is hired."

James, Anthony or any unnamed target might have a candidate in mind, but they'd have a hard time arguing a superstar hire of Calipari or Ollie's ilk. Assuming, of course, the Lakers' luster still shines bright enough to pluck either one from his current post.