Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Potential Coaches To Replace Phil Jackson at Season's End
It's hard to imagine anyone OTHER than Phil Jackson coaching the Lakers, isn't it?
Can you even name the coach that came before him? It's kind of a trick question because Jackson coached the Lakers from 1999-2004, took a year off and then returned to coach the team from 2005 until the present.
The Lakers actually had TWO coaches during the 2004-05 campaign. Rudy Tomjanovich had to resign due to health issues midway through the season and was replaced by interim coach Frank Hamblen for the remainder of the year.
In between the Pat Riley years and the Phil Jackson era, there was Mike Dunleavy, Randy Pfund (who?), Magic Johnson (5-11 in 16 games), Del Harris (1994-95 NBA Coach of the Year) and Kurt Rambis.
Del Harris was by far and away the most successful of the bunch, going 224-116 over the course of four-plus seasons.
So please excuse me for being ever so slightly concerned about Jackson's eventual replacement, especially when you consider the fact that no one seems to be discussing it at all.
This is probably the case for one of two reasons: Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak already know who will be coaching the Lakers next year or they are just a tad bit preoccupied with their journey towards another three-peat to care about anything else.
I'm guessing it's a little bit of both.
How do you even begin to replace the greatest coach in NBA history anyway? After all, the "Zen Master," best known for his use of Tex Winter's triangle offense and his philosophical approach to coaching, has only won 11 of the past 20 NBA titles.
Should be easy enough to replace, right?
With that in mind, let's take a look at some potential coaches to replace Phil Jackson at season's end...
5. Mike Krzyzewski
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Any time there is a discussion on who will be the next coach of the Lakers, Coach K's name almost always pops up for a few reasons. The first and most important reason is his relationship with Kobe Bryant.
They first bonded when Bryant was a high school senior, considering playing college basketball at Duke. Bryant even tried (unsuccessfully) to persuade Coach K to coach the Lakers in 2004 when Phil Jackson took a leave of absence.
Coach K finally got to coach Kobe in the 2008 Olympics and told told Steve Springer of the LA Times the following: "I would always want guys who would want to win. It's all about winning. ... He'll do whatever he thinks he needs to do to bring about a championship.
"He's proven it and he wants to prove it again. There are lot of people who prove it once and never want to do it again. He's uncommon. He wants to prove it over and over again. There is nothing bad about Kobe Bryant."
The fact that Coach K has worked with Kobe during two summers of international play and is getting ready to again, also contributes to the possibility of him joining the Lakers.
Oh, and did I mention he's the second greatest college basketball coach of all time?
An overall head coaching record of 894-281 (.761) and an even more ridiculous 77-22 record in the NCAA Tournament, leading to four national championships.
Final Verdict: 1 percent
4. Jim Cleamons
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Jim Cleamons would be an easy choice, considering he has been an assistant coach under Phil Jackson with both the Bulls and the Lakers.
Cleamons' only head coaching experience was with the Dallas Mavericks for slightly over a year in 1996-97.
For a few games during his tenure with the Lakers, Cleamons has acted as head coach while Jackson was absent. He even won a playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.
Cleamons wouldn't be the most popular choice amongst Lakers fans but there are two factors that puts him into consideration, stability and the fact that he would continue to run the triangle offense which he knows inside and out.
Final Verdict: 10 percent
3. Kurt Rambis
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We all know the history of Kurt Rambis, a four-time champion with the Lakers as a player during the '80s, followed by an assistant head coaching position with the team from 2002-2009, before finally taking over as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009 until present.
Rambis will always be a popular choice within Lakers circles, because he was the definition of a "fan favorite" during his playing days in LA.
Best known for his overachieving underdog status and his role as the ultimate team player, Rambis was always willing to do the "dirty work" which made him easy to appreciate from a fan's perspective.
Rambis briefly coached the Lakers during the infamous "lockout season" in 1999 following the firing of then head coach Del Harris. He went 24-13 during the regular season before being swept by the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Rambis also served as GM of the Lakers when Phil Jackson was first hired before becoming an assistant coach in 2002.
Final Verdict: 25 percent
2. Byron Scott
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Where do we begin? Inglewood native, three-time champion as a player with the Lakers, served as a mentor to Kobe Bryant, back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals as head coach of the Nets and NBA Coach of the Year in 2008 with New Orleans.
How is this guy not the No. 1 choice you ask?
Well, Scott decided to take on the ultimate rebuilding project in NBA history when he was named head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 2, 2010 following the departure of LeBron James to the Miami Heat.
It's been a rough first season for Scott as the Cavaliers re-wrote the NBA history book with a NBA record 26-game losing streak that finally ended on February 11, 2011 in an overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Had Scott not accepted this position last year, he might have been number one on our list, but at this point, it appears he will remain in Cleveland to help rebuild this now struggling franchise.
Final Verdict: 50 percent
1. Brian Shaw
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Brian Shaw has been an assistant coach with the Lakers since 2004. Once Kurt Rambis left for Minnesota, many believed Shaw became next in line to replace Phil Jackson.
Shaw was known as an extremely intelligent player on the Lakers title teams during their first (*wink wink) three-peat under Phil Jackson.
As an assistant coach with the Lakers, he has earned very positive reviews and has long believed to be an excellent future head coach.
Shaw, much like Jim Cleamons, would allow the Lakers to continue to run the same system without missing a beat.
And perhaps most importantly, it's been rumored that he is Kobe Bryant's top choice to replace the Zen Master at season's end.
I believe if the Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak had to make this decision today, Brian Shaw would be your next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Final Verdict: 90 percent