Kobe Bryant’s Farewell Season will go down as the worst season in the history of the Lakers franchise. Not exactly what the Buss family and GM Mitch Kupchak had in mind. Head Coach Byron Scott has not been able to fix the squad that has been a failure since Phil Jackson left. Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni were high profile signings that flamed out quickly. There are 3 major problems with the Lakers organization at this point, in-fighting between the Buss family, the ghost of Phil Jackson, and the massive presence of Kobe Bryant.
Jim and Jeanie Buss need to figure things out and get on the same page as another chapter in Lakers basketball starts with the retirement of Kobe Bryant. The final seasons of Kobe’s career hindered the Lakers ability to be competitive. Building one last championship squad was the goal with the acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2012. Those aspirations never came to fruition with Nash getting hurt and Howard seeking greener pastures. The fallout led to the Lakers starting a rebuild with culmination of the Kobe Farewell tour in full on rebuild mode. Unfortunately the youth movement doesn’t seem to have paid off as the young players haven’t progressed under Byron Scott’s tutelage. The million dollar question is how much of it is on the players and how much is on Head Coach Byron Scott?
In my opinion Byron Scott is a major roadblock as to why the Lakers younger players haven’t developed. This season was supposed to be focused on development. Tough love and making players earn their minutes is understandable at the beginning of the season. Playing your young core should have been the priority. Scott has one year left on his deal and very well could have received an extension if Russell, Clarkson, and Randle showed growth. The Lakers would be foolish to bring Scott back for another season. The best thing Scott can do for the Lakers is continue to mismanage the team to improve the chances of not having to give their top 3 protected pick to the 76ers.
Who is the coach to fix this mess? As GM of the Lakers these are the guys I would talk to for the job and avoid contacting. Luke Walton and Tom Thibodeau are the rumored leading candidates for the job. Walton gained steam coaching the Warriors while Steve Kerr was away from the team. Walton will be on a lot of coaching short lists having worked his way up thru the ranks. I put more stock in his resume and IQ than his handling of the reigning champs early this season. Walton will be a successful NBA head coach at some point. Are the rebuilding Lakers the best spot for his first head coaching job? I believe Walton should take a page from Steve Kerr in terms of choosing his first job. Kerr left the rebuilding Knicks at the alter and took over a Warriors team with more talent. It’s sometimes difficult to wash the stink off of a failed first job. Derek Fisher and Jacques Vaughn are currently finding that out.
Tom Thibodeau had a successful run with Chicago Bulls come to an end due to in-fighting with upper management. Thibodeau was criticized by upper management for playing his players too many minutes. The shorter rotations hurt the Bulls as they often limped into the playoffs after spectacular regular seasons. Derrick Rose’s health played a part in the Bulls failures as well. Thibodeau is a phenomenal X’s an O’s coach and will get another job at some point. A .647 career winning percentage with a 255-139 record puts you on many short lists for coaching jobs. Has the 2011 NBA coach of the year learned to play politics better than he did in Chicago?
Nate McMillan has a 478-452 .514 career coaching record with the Seattle Sonics and Portland Trail Blazers. McMillan won 2 division titles as a coach. The problem was McMillan’s teams often got bounced in the opening round of the playoffs. McMillan is currently an assistant coach for the Pacers. His experience in different roles around the game may give McMillan another shot.
Monty Williams had a losing record 173-221 .439 as head coach of the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans. In 5 years Williams had 2 first-round exits and 3 seasons missing the post season during his time in New Orleans. Currently Williams is the Associate Head Coach of the Thunder. Williams did a good enough job in New Orleans to qualify for another shot at a lead chair.
Mark Jackson helped to turn around the Golden State Warriors in his 3 seasons at the helm. The career 121-109 record .526 is impressive considering the first season featured a 23-43 finish. Jackson got the Warriors from point A to point B, but the organization felt someone else was better to suited to get the team to point C. Steve Kerr did just that in his first year at the helm. Jackson had some run-ins with the front office which led to his dismissal. I’m not a fan of Jackson and the way he conducted business in Oakland. I’d like an explanation as to what went wrong and if he’s learned from the experience. His resume does merit consideration for head coaching vacancies.
Other former coaches don’t fit the Lakers for various reasons. Jeff Van Gundy wants full control which won’t happen in LA. Former Laker Derek Fisher looked completely overmatched in New York. Working for Phil Jackson wasn’t as beneficial to Fisher’s career as many would have expected. David Blatt’s resume overseas is impressive, while his NBA resume has a bunch of question marks. Getting neutered by LeBron James is the first problem. Star players often do that to players, but Blatt didn’t seem to relate well to his players or the NBA game. His innovate offense overseas was squashed by King James. Blatt was in a really tough spot in Cleveland. He needs to be really selective in pursuing a 2nd NBA head coaching job.
The Lakers job is one of the premier coaching jobs in all of sports. Others may view it otherwise as the mighty have fallen in recent years. Whether someone has ties to the organization or not should outweigh their qualifications for the job. First the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak need to get their affairs in order. Then they should look for a new coach.