Los Angeles Lakers: Picking Right Coach Is Critical; Best Candidate Is Obvious
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So, is it okay if I toss out an opinion about the Lakers? As a former Featured Columnist for the Clippers, I have rarely dipped my toes into purple and gold water, but this coaching vacancy has forced me to to chime in.
I hope Clipper fans forgive me while Laker fans indulge me.
Before I continue about the potential replacement for P.J., I wanted to throw out my Laker resume, so to speak. Truth is, I was raised a Laker fan. Magic's Showtime team was my team.
I remember seeing that game—coincidentally against the San Diego Clippers—where the rookie jumped on a very surprised Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after the latter made a long sky hook to win game one of a long season. That smile, the enthusiasm and his game had me, and all of LA, hooked.
As much as I loved watching Magic and Kareem do their thing, I was more a fan of Norm Nixon and Jamal Wilkes. Nixon's fall-away jumper was unstoppable. I remember hearing him give credit for that shot to a player he practiced against named Jose Champagne.
As for Jamal Wilkes, well, in addition to having one of the best nicknames in the history of the game, his jump shot was immortalized by then Laker play by play announcer Chick Hearn. The player they called "Silk" because of his smooth jump shot regularly took his awkward jump shot from about twenty feet out. It's not quite on par with Chicks call of a Kareem Sky Hook, "He swings left, shoots right, its good!", but hearing him describe a Wilkes jump shot still resonates with me.
"Magic drives, kicks it out to Wilkes for a twenty foot layup. Its good!"
Jamal Wilkes was the king of the twenty foot layup. Classic Chick Hearn.
Incidentally, would Ray Allen be today's equivalent? I think he has earned the title of modern-day 20-foot layup shooter, don't you?
I would never miss a Laker game growing up. Back then, before DVR's, we had to record the game on VHS. The problem was that some of the games were on National TV, which meant we didn't get to hear Chick do the play-by-play. As any real Laker fan back then will tell you, if you weren't listening to Chick, you weren't watching a Laker game.
To get around this problem, my friends and I would record the audio on radio using a cassette tape while we recorded the game on VHS. Then, we would sync up the two by hitting "play" at about the same time.
I was almost pummeled to death one particular night when we went through our process for a regular season Laker vs. Celtics game at my house. The game was a tight one that was coming down to the wire. Chick was on the cassette, the game was on the VHS, Magic had the rock with the Lakers a point down.
Something good was about to happen. My friends and I were cheering, anticipating the next no-look pass, sky-hook or 20-foot layup, when it happened.
The screen went blank, showing nothing but that fuzz from the Poltergeist movie. Turns out that I hadn't allowed enough tape on the VHS.
A friend of mine who was at my house that fateful day was at the LA Zoo a few years later. He noticed Michael Cooper and went to say hello. They began a friendship that culminated with my friend becoming a pastor to the team.
He would go into the locker room after every game. I didn't go to every game that year, but I went to a few. While my friend was in with the Lakers, I got to wait outside the locker-room with the Laker wives, girlfriends and significant others.
I was at one of the celebrations MC'ed by Chick Hearn at the parking lot of the Great Western Forum after one of their championships. I was at the only home game they lost to the 76ers on their way to the 1980 Championship.
The Lakers are a part of my basketball DNA. So much so, that my daughter is a fan. This coming after me spending more time with the Clippers while she was growing up.
It was inevitable though, you can't fight DNA.
I consider myself a basketball fan, more than a fan of any particular team, but I understand that Laker fans are an avid bunch. You don't want just anyone commenting on your team.
I understand. I hope the above qualifies me.
OK, time to wax eloquently now about the coaching issue. You ready? You with me?
The next coach of the Lakers has to be a winner. This is not a team to hand over to someone without a proven track record as a winner. This isn't a rebuilding year; at most its a restructuring year, but this is a team that will content next year. They need someone that can lead them far into the playoffs in 2011-2012.
Additionally, this has to be a players' coach—someone who will command the players' respect even when he is telling them to leave outside influences, outside. He has to be someone with a strong voice. I don't mean loud, I mean strong. You know what I mean, right?
Experience coaching in the Finals would give him an "A" Having won it gives him an A+.
So, to round it all up, the Lakers need a winner, someone who has proven leadership qualities with a strong voice that commands respect and has been to and/or won an NBA Championship. That eliminates Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis, Chuck Person, Mitt Romney, Howard Stern and Charlie Sheen.
As a matter of fact, it's easier to list the coaches that remain on the list. Rick Adelman, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and Doc Rivers.
Adelman and Sloan would be on the "A" list, having made it to the Finals but never winning. That leaves only two A+ candidates, Brown and Rivers.
Brown is a great coach, but not the right fit for the Lakers in 2011-2012. Why? It's more because of the other candidate's incredible resume than Brown's lack of anything.
Doc Rivers is a winner, a proven leader with a strong voice. He commands respect and has won an NBA Championship. The fact that he is just a little younger than Brown, and therefore more likely to stay on longer, gives him the edge.
Rivers contract expired this year. He was paid $5.5 million. Jackson earned $6 million. The Lakers need to call Doc's agent today and offer him a $500,000 raise.
Doc needs to accept it.
Okay, now back to fixing the Clippers. Hey, don't laugh, its possible.
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