Almost two full years as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers were enough for Mike D’Antoni amid the ongoing speculation of his job security, which now means that as the team heads into a massive rebuild, a new head coach, with names like Byron Scott, Kevin Ollie, George Karl, Lionel Hollins, John Calipari and possibly even Ettore Messina as likely candidates.
D’Antoni had a 67-87 record in the two years on the sidelines for the Lakers, making the playoffs once but not winning a single postseason game. Most would agree that the front office and injuries were to blame for the Lakers having such a poor, 27-55 campaign in 2013-14, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, but D’Antoni was never popular among those making the decision, living with the shadow of being a second choice to Phil Jackson.
D’Antoni had a deal for next season, but wanted the front office to pick up the option for 2015-2016 as well, so he’d have job security and there wouldn’t be any speculation about whether or not he’d get fired each and every week. The Lakers wouldn’t do that, so D’Antoni and the management came to an agreement – he would be paid a bit more than half his $4 million salary for next season, with the Lakers being able to recoup some of the money if he lands another job next season.
Despite not being the blame for everything, most (specifically Magic Johnson, who is making news all the time right now) seem to be happy about D’Antoni leaving his position. Now, the Lakers will focus on the draft first and only then make a move for a head coach, with anything from a big name to a young college guy being something that’s discusses. Phil Jackson would have been their first pick, but he is already tied to the project in New York.
So what names have come up? Former Lakers player Byron Scott, fired a year ago by the Cavs, who has had a lot of success in the past with the Nets (two NBA finals) and the Hornets, seems to be a name near the top of the list. He had three rough years in Cleveland, although anyone would have suffered from the same fate in the post-LeBron years.
George Karl, who has been hanging around in the studio this past year after surprisingly being fired by the Denver Nuggets, is a big name, a great basketball mind with a proven track record, making the playoffs nine consecutive times as the head coach of the Nuggets. Hollins is another NBA vet who might be on the list, although his more rigid approach might not be something welcomed in Los Angeles. He was fired (contract not picked up), after all, despite leading the Grizzlies to the conference finals last season.
John Calipari is going to be mentioned quite a lot. Why? He is probably the biggest name in college basketball, winning a national title with Kentucky in 2012 and taking a five-freshmen team to the national finals this season. I’m not sure he actually wants to leave Lexington, and his previous NBA visit wasn’t very successful. Either way, he’s going to be mentioned quite a lot.
Wildcards? There’s Kevin Ollie from UConn, leading the Huskies to a national title but he has only been two years at the job. Sure, the Celtics are happy with Brad Stevens and the young college guy might become something of a trend, but it would be surprising. Italian Ettore Messina, who was a consultant to Mike Brown during the 2011-12, has himself a lot of fans within the organization. He is currently the head coach of CSKA Moscow in Russia.