The resignation of Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni this week has opened up a floodgate of rumors as to who the team will target as their next coach. D’Antoni, who was hired by the Lakers to replace Mike Brown on November 12, 2012, had a 67-87 record in his two seasons with the team. The primary reason for his resignation was the Lakers refusal to provide assurances they would exercise his team option for the 2015/2016 season. D’Antoni had concerns about having a “lame duck” status next season.
The Lakers are going after marquee names and want to “make a splash” with their next coaching hire, with Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and Kentucky’s John Calipari at the forefront, reported Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The team still plans to reach out to Calipari even though he denied interest in the vacancy on Thursday. The Lakers intend to hold back and focus on the draft and free agency while they gauge the coaching market, Stein and Shelburne write.
The Lakers are also considering holding off on a decision in case a high-profile free agent indicates he wants to join the team, sources told Stein and Shelburne. In that instance, the free agent would be able to influence the team’s choice of coaches.
There are plenty of other names that have been mentioned to be possible targets for the team. Here’s a quick rundown of the main candidates that the Lakers might take a look at:
- Kevin Ollie: Ollie is open to hearing from the Lakers, but is very committed to UConn, a person familiar with Ollie’s thinking said, writes Mark Medina of Los Angeles Daily News. Ollie is a hot name amongst NBA teams right now, and beyond his ability as a coach, he reportedly has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and that could be a boon in attempting to lure Durant to Los Angeles when he becomes a free agent in 2016. In two seasons at UConn, Ollie’s record is 52-18, including winning the NCAA Championship this past season.
- George Karl: Karl has been out of coaching since the 2012/13 season. He was let go by the Nuggets after winning Coach of the Year honors that year. He would certainly qualify as a big name coach and would most likely meet with the approval of Kobe Bryant. Karl’s lifetime record is 1131-756.
- Jeff Van Gundy: Van Gundy hasn’t coached since the 2006/07 season when he led the Rockets to a 52-30 record. His career numbers are 430-318. It isn’t known if Van Gundy is interested in the job as he has made it known that he is happy as a broadcaster.
- John Calipari: Calipari has already stated via his own Twitter account that he wasn’t interested in the position and would be staying at Kenucky. “Before it starts, I’m totally committed to helping this group of young men reach their dreams,” Calipari wrote. “I wouldn’t and couldn’t leave this group!” But Nina Mandell of USA Today Sports noted earlier that Calipari accepted the Kentucky job after proclaiming his plans to stay put at Memphis. Calipari previously coached the Nets for 2+ seasons and had an overall record of 72-112.
- Byron Scott: Scott, in an interview with Time Warner Cable Sports Net, confirmed a report that he’s interested in the job (video link). He’s also a favorite of the Buss family, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding noted. In 13 seasons as a head coach, Scott has a record of 416-521. He last coached the Cavaliers during the 2012/13 season, leading the team to a 24-58 record before being fired.
- Kurt Rambis: Rambis wouldn’t necessarily be the “big splash” that the team was reportedly looking to make, but his ties to the organization and desire to become a head coach again make him someone that will get some consideration. Rambis coached the Lakers during the 1998/99 season, and had a record of 24-13. He also coached the Timberwolves from 2009/10 to 2010/11. His lifetime record as a coach is 56-145.
- Steve Kerr: Ben Higgins of San Diego’s Channel 10 News (Twitter link) reported that Kerr said he would be interested in speaking to the team about the now vacant position. Kerr has repeatedly been liked to the Knicks since Phil Jackson was hired. Multiple reports suggested that Kerr would prefer to work for a team on the West Coast, but more recently Lute Olson, Kerr’s college coach, said that he didn’t believe that was the case. Marc Berman of the New York Post noted that the Lakers don’t view Kerr as a candidate for their coaching vacancy, believing he’s too far along in his negotiations with New York.
- Derek Fisher: Stein and Shelburne have noted that the Lakers are also considering Fisher, for whom the job reportedly holds “tremendous appeal.” Fisher has made it known that he is interested in pursuing position as an NBA front-office executive after he retires, but Fisher has previously stated that he had no interest in coaching, so it’s unknown if he would have a change of heart.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.