5 Things the LA Lakers Need from Their Next Head Coach
The Los Angeles Lakers have a difficult task ahead in identifying their next head coach to lead the storied franchise out of despair.
In order to do that, the Lakers' next orchestrator will have to exhibit several important qualities that demonstrate the ability to lead one of sports' most recognizable brands out of the cellar.
It's no secret Los Angeles had its worst season in franchise history in 2013-14. The business of erasing that and making it a distant memory begins immediately as the Lakers begin their search.
The Lakers' most recent history and short-term outlook were the most influential factors in these traits. They are in no particular order.
With that in mind, let's begin.
The Lakers are realistically years away from competing for an NBA championship. In Laker-land, that's not going to be well-received by stakeholders.
Los Angeles' next head coach will need to have the patience to both stay the course and tune out a demanding fanbase. In addition, he'll need to recognize that the team's biggest challenges won't just go away.
Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant will combine to count over $33 million against the 2014-15 cap number. Considering the two future Hall of Famers played a combined 21 games in 2013-14, that return on investment figures to remain low.
Both players will be motivated to prove doubters wrong, but they'll be a year older and part of the primary issue that the Lakers' best current players are also their oldest.
Any head coach brought in needs to have the patience (and front-office support) to continue assembling a competitive squad and system piece by piece while managing these two veterans.
All that glitter isn't gold, especially in Los Angeles. The bright lights of Staples Center have witnessed some of the best memories in franchise history, but they've also been center stage for the circus that comes with all things purple and gold.
The Lakers are coming off three seasons that rival the wildest Hollywood dramas. A brief overview:
- In one of David Stern's most infamous moves, the NBA blocked a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers in a three-team blockbuster
- Mike Brown replaces Phil Jackson as head coach, going 41-25 in a lockout-shortened season
- LA gets embarrassed by the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, who defeat the Lakers handily in a 4-1 series win in the Western Conference Semifinals
- The Lakers take a gamble and trade for Dwight Howard, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end. They also obtain his Larry Bird rights, which allows LA to offer him more in salary and contract years in a max deal only to watch Howard spurn them for the Houston Rockets
- They also signed Steve Nash, who broke his leg three games into the season in a freak collision with then-rookie Damian Lillard
- After flirting with the idea of hiring Lakers and NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson to right the ship, the Lakers go in a completely different direction and hired Mike D'Antoni
- The Lakers miss the playoffs for just the sixth time in 66 seasons and amass the worst record in franchise history
- Nash continues to suffer lingering after-effects from the broken leg, including nerve root irritation, causing him to appear in only 15 games
- Bryant appears in only six games
The Lakers' next head coach may have to endure more of the same while playing in a Los Angeles-sized fishbowl.
A Track Record of Success
The Lakers' next coach will be the one expected to lead them back to NBA glory.
Whether that's right away or years down the road in the post-Kobe era, it's safe to say LA needs someone who knows how to win. For that reason, an established coach makes the most sense for the team's next hire.
Whether it's a college coach like Kevin Ollie or a proven NBA leader like Jeff Van Gundy, the Lakers need someone who's shown they can maximize their talent.
Van Gundy holds a career .575 winning percentage in 11 seasons at the helm. He's been involved with the game as an analyst since sitting on the sidelines and could be ready to do it again. If the Lakers want to make a splash with their next hire, he's the guy.
In Ollie's case, the Lake Show could come calling should he be interested. Though he's reportedly not, his track record, youthfulness and ties to Southern California make him a natural candidate as a potential successor to Mike D'Antoni.
Whichever direction they go, the Lakers are obligated to bring in someone who can win games.
Bryant is still the face of the franchise and its best player, so any coach who comes in will need his support.
Having an endorsement from Kobe will go a long way toward ensuring the next man's success. If he feels LA's next coach gives the squad a legitimate shot to win, the rest of the players, whomever they may be at that point, should follow suit.
No one knows what Bryant has left as he enters his 19th campaign following an injury-riddled season, but he'll still be the Lakers' unquestioned leader on the floor. A head coach coming in will have to work with him for the next two seasons.
A Distinct Roadmap
The Lakers' next head coach will have to work in tandem with the front office to carry out a plan that both parties can agree on.
For the last few seasons as noted before, the Lakers have been a team without an identity. Some of those circumstances were beyond their control, but the failures of the past have to stay behind them.
Moving forward, general manager Mitch Kupchak will have a blank canvas of sorts with which to mold the roster into something that suits the next lead man's eye.
They'll both need to be on the same page when it comes to personnel decisions.