The search extends in many directions, including the collegiate level, current players and even coaches currently under contract with other teams—namely Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau's Bulls were bounced from the postseason in five games by the Washington Wizards, so it's kind of-sort of not a surprise his name is coming up in the Lakers' search.
This story won't go away any time soon. Here's the latest.
Kobe Bryant's 'Wish' is Tom Thibodeau...
Thank Kobe Bryant for this one.
Well, allegedly. Possibly. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Bryant has a few preferences for who takes over next, but above all he "wishes" for Thibodeau:
The Lakers have lost talent, lost stability, lost what separates winning and losing franchises. Bryant won't pick the next coach, the way he had no input into Mike Brown and little into D'Antoni. Bryant will wish for Tom Thibodeau to free himself from Chicago. He loves Jeff Van Gundy, and shares management's affinity for Euro legend Ettore Messina, who spent a season on Mike Brown's staff.
This isn't from Bryant's mouth directly, but one has to presume it has legs if Wojnarowski is willing to run with it. Other options seem more realistic in the present tense, but anything can happen as the offseason progresses and there are early signs things may move in the direction Bryant so desires.
Which May Come True...Or Not
To best understand why Thibodeau could be on the move to Los Angeles, two important nuggets of info must first be consumed.
If that system is further impacted in a negative manner this offseason, Thibodeau could view the franchise in Chicago as one set to undergo a rebuild, which may encourage him to ask to be let out of his contract—a request the Bulls front office would likely grant, per Bleacher Report's Howard Beck:
Already disenchanted with management, Thibodeau could use a rebuilding plan as a reason to ask out of his contract—a request the Bulls would likely grant. If the Bulls remain contenders, however, sources believe he will stay put.
There hasn't been much traction on this front yet as the Bulls enter the infancy of their offseason after a brutal postseason series, but it's easy to see why the Lakers are already working on making something happen, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:
The Lakers plan to reach out to the Chicago Bulls for permission to interview Tom Thibodeau, a league source tells http://t.co/8DsJGhr2Pi— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 1, 2014
Although CSN Chicago's David Kaplan confirms no calls have been made just yet:
Impeccable NBA source confirms to me that the Los Angeles Lakers have not asked for permission to interview Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) May 1, 2014
Regardless, it sounds like Thibodeau is absolutely one of the bases the Lakers tend to cover this offseason while on the coach hunt.
For his part, Thibodeau has kept his eye on the prize to this point and handled his team's early postseason exit with grace, as captured by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Thibodeau: "I’m proud of the team. They gave us everything they had. There was nothing left. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 30, 2014
For what it's worth, ESPN's Bill Simmons thinks Thibodeau is on his way to a Doc Rivers situation:
I feel good about this prediction: Thibs becomes this summer's Doc (traded for a future 1st round pick), then Chicago hires Fred Hoiberg.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 1, 2014
We're probably a long way out from discovering if this maneuver has any traction or will come to fruition, but there seems to be a framework in place if the dominoes fall correctly.
Insurance Policies Remain in Place
The Lakers—surely to Bryant's approval—won't put all of the proverbial eggs in one basket, though.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne provide insight on two of the biggest names the Lakers have in mind, both of whom happen to be very successful at the collegiate level:
To that end, sources say, Lakers officials intend to reach out to two of the biggest names in the college game -- UConn's Kevin Ollie and Kentucky's John Calipari -- to at least gauge their interest in the job. ...
The Lakers' immediate aims, sources say, are to focus on the draft and free agency and "hold back (on the coaching front) until they get a better sense of the marketplace."
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times expanded on the list with a few surprises:
Lakers will interview George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Byron Scott and Rambis for coaching vacancy. Also, as reported earlier, Calipari + Ollie— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) May 1, 2014
Be sure to not forget Wojnarowski's musings above, which also listed current Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Derek Fisher as a possibility.
Got all that? Thibodeau may be No. 1 in Bryant's mind, but that clearly doesn't mean he is in the minds of those who have the final say. If he gets out of his contract, expect him to head west. If not, it's impossible to say if the Lakers will fork over a boatload of resources—including draft picks in a very good class—to rip him away from the Windy City.
Regardless, Lakers fans sure have an exciting offseason on their hands.