Is LA Lakers' Lengthy Coaching Search Good Patience or a Recipe for Trouble?

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013 file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott looking on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte, N.C. The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired coach Byron Scott after three losing seasons. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are taking their sweet time hiring a head coach, and the delay is raising some serious questions among fans who hoped a foundational piece of the organization's future would already be in place by now.

Typically, teams act quickly—or at least quicker than this; L.A.'s coaching search has dragged on since Mike D'Antoni walked away on April 30. In these situations, most franchises are eager to sell fans on a new vision right away.

The Lakers are unique in this regard, as they operate under less urgency than most other organizations. Their legacy of success means fans are generally more interested in links to the past than sales pitches for bright new futures.

Nonetheless, despite six interviews (that we know of) with Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry, Kurt Rambis, George Karl and Mike Dunleavy, the Lakers haven't yet pulled the trigger.

Though, to be fair, it seems that slow progress is still progress. L.A. may be narrowing its focus, per ESPN's Chris Broussard:

Los Angeles can take its time if it wants, but the longer this process goes on, the more questions there'll be about the sense in delaying.

Not the Norm

Nick Ut/Associated Press

Though it's never good practice to do something because "that's how everybody else does it," much of the concern surrounding L.A.'s deliberate approach probably stems from the fact that other organizations have acted much more quickly to fill their vacancies.

Teams typically scramble to snatch up candidates they want, perhaps because they had somebody in mind as a successor long before the sitting coach left the big chair.

The Golden State Warriors wanted Steve Kerr, and they got him.

Th Detroit Pistons targeted Stan Van Gundy, fired a cannon loaded with money at him and inked him to a huge deal.

Even the New York Knicks roped in Derek Fisher right away. He took nine days off after the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated before agreeing to work for Phil Jackson.

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

There's a temptation to view those signings as evidence that the Lakers are missing out on good candidates, that their delay is costing them. At the very least, it's probably a little bothersome for Lakers fans to see the marquee names snatched up by other teams without L.A. making so much as an overture.

And ultimately, fans thirsty for news would probably like to hear a little more than this from general manager Mitch Kupchak, per Rahshaun Haylock of

"The coaching search is ongoing. As you've read, we've interviewed several candidates. We'll interview more. Other than that there's really nothing to add."

Not exactly a font of information.

With the 2014 draft rapidly approaching, you'd think the Lakers would be feeling an increased sense of urgency. After all, they haven't had a pick this high in decades, and whoever winds up coaching the team should probably have some input on how it's used.

Despite all of the reasons most teams in the Lakers' current position typically hurry, they're content to take their time.

Exercising Due Care

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Perhaps the Lakers' search has gone on so long because they simply don't know who they want to lead them into their next era. If that's true, it makes perfect sense not to rush into anything.

Then again, there might be cause for alarm if the reason L.A. doesn't know who it wants is because there simply aren't any good options available. Or worse, that the front office lacks the cohesive vision to settle on one candidate.

It's hard to get past the unimpressive quality of the coaches still up for grabs, and L.A.'s stated premium on previous head coaching experience means retreads are just about all it has to choose from. Still, being careful is a good thing.

If, however, the current indecision is rooted in a lack of organizational consensus, that's a troubling sign.

And we can't be sure which is the case with the Lakers.

On the one hand, we can assume Kupchak, who has been around a long time and enjoyed a lot of success, is merely taking time to make the right call. But the team's recent track record of head coach hiring fractures that confidence.

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

The stunning streak of bad decisions that started with hiring Mike Brown, featured a missed opportunity to land Jackson and culminated with D'Antoni resigning this past April was an embarrassment all around. And it cast some serious doubt on the wisdom of the Lakers brass.

It's possible L.A. has scared itself into paralysis.

Then again, maybe that saga is precisely why the Lakers are adopting a careful approach this time around. Mistakes like those can be a good thing—as long as there's a lesson to take away.

Perhaps the Lakers are wiser for their struggles.

Pipe Dreams

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 6: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat defends Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks as he calls for the ball during a game on April 6, 2014 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and a
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Of course, there's also the possibility laid out by USA Today's Sam Amick that says the Lakers are waiting to pick a coach because there are a handful of superstars who could hit free agency on July 1. The thinking goes something like this, per Amick:

The slow pace of the Lakers' coaching search that began April 30 when Mike D'Antoni resigned has been timed deliberately with the upcoming free agency period in the NBA, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Specifically, the idea that the Lakers could beat the odds and land the likes of the Heat's LeBron James, the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony or any of the other superstars who may be free agents on July 1 has led the Lakers to plod through their process so as to not limit their potential options.

If there's even the slightest chance that any of the stars mentioned above would consider relocating to Los Angeles, then the Lakers should absolutely wait them out.

But the Lakers don't have a functional supporting cast in place, the West is far too tough for them to be rightly labeled contenders any time soon, and the allure of playing with a soon-to-be 36-year-old Kobe Bryant (fresh off of a lost season) isn't what it used to be.

Though it's fun to think about, we should probably put this possibility to bed.

Slow and Unsteady

Jan 24, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sportsw

Ultimately, the Lakers are taking a long time to pick a coach because they're playing the long game.

See what I did there?

Objectively, L.A. is not built to compete next year, and with Bryant almost certain to be less effective on the court than ever, the Lakers are basically in a holding pattern for two more years.

That complicates the Lakers' coaching situation immensely, as whoever comes in to manage things will need a rare combination of skills. He'll need the long-term vision to ride out what will likely be a couple of tough seasons with a possibly frustrated Bryant, while also leveraging his tactical chops to get the most out of whatever stopgap roster the Lakers cobble together before truly rebuilding in the summers of 2015 and 2016.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 5:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media before a game against the Denver Nuggets at STAPLES Center on January 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

This is a ridiculously convoluted situation, and whoever gets the job must possess patience, smarts, loads of confidence and the ability to win over fans eager to see progress when there's likely to be very little.

We can all agree patience makes plenty of sense in this situation. L.A. must get this move right.

But perhaps we shouldn't discount the possibility that the Lakers are taking so long to pick a coach because the person with all of the skills necessary to succeed simply doesn't exist.


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