The 2010-11 NBA season is supposed to be the last for Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Assuming he does follow through on his promise to retire, who is best suited to assume the reins of leadership once he's gone?
The decision will likely end up being a matter of philosophical approach on the part of Lakers owner Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, and there appear to be two candidates who clearly speak to either extreme.
If the Lakers choose to continue the legacy of Jackson's triangle offense, the most likely choice for Kupchak and Buss would be top assistant Brian Shaw.
Shaw has dedicated his fledgling coaching career to Jackson's principles—namely, a strong defense and, even more importantly, the triangle offense.
Jackson's coaching philosophy has been very good to the Lakers franchise. As the saying goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, there is also the matter of Shaw's inexperience to consider.
Players like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are rumored to favor Shaw as Jackson's eventual replacement, but that could be because they were all former teammates.
It's one thing to establish an emotional connection to players, and something entirely different when you have to push those players' buttons to instill motivation or offer instruction.
How will veterans like Bryant or Fisher respond to Shaw in a crucial situation?
Issues like Shaw's youth will definitely be scrutinized, and if he is found lacking, the eyes of the Lakers front office may shift to former Lakers shooting guard Byron Scott.
Even if Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert still considers Scott a major part of his team's rebuilding process, it's hard to see Scott turning down the Lakers if they should happen to call.
Scott has said time and again that coaching the Lakers is his dream job. If the team did choose to go his direction, Scott would bring an entirely different style of coaching with him.
Scott prefers a motion offense based off the dribble-drive penetration of his point guard, and he found some success with this as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets.
If Scott were hired, the chances of the Lakers acquiring a point guard like Paul—or perhaps New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams—in the near future would improve, because the Lakers' offense would place those talents at a premium.
Paul is also rumored to have said that Scott was the best coach he ever played for, and that he wouldn't mind playing for him again.
In my opinion, the Lakers would benefit more from sticking with the strategy that has won them five NBA championships in 10 years and has them poised to challenge for a sixth this season.
I like Scott, but it's hard to argue with the results of Jackson's philosophy.
The ever-underrated McMillan has proved to be a master at maximizing talent, and Rambis is a hard-nosed coach with obvious Laker ties.
Of course, Jackson could make it a moot issue by deciding he wants to coach a few more years. In any case, the franchise needs to be prepared to move forward—regardless of Jackson's decision.
The only question is, how far would the Lakers be prepared to move?