As the search for the next Los Angeles Lakers head coach continues, five names have made the top of their list. Although the franchise hasn’t decided yet, the Lakers have already interviewed a bunch of coaching candidates. According to the LATimes.com on May 28, 2014, these five top candidates have already sat down with the Lakers:
“Clippers assistant coach Alvin Gentry was interviewed Wednesday and former Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins was scheduled to meet with the Lakers on Thursday. Both coaches are interviewing with Cleveland, and Gentry will return to Utah for a second interview with the Jazz. Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott and Mike Dunleavy have also been interviewed by the Lakers.”
Let us meet them one by one:
As reported by CBSSports.com on May 26, 2014:
“The Los Angeles Lakers will interview Alvin Gentry in person on Wednesday after he spoke to general manager Mitch Kupchak by phone last Friday, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Gentry, who served as an assistant under Mike D’Antoni with the Phoenix Suns, reportedly has become a more viable candidate to replace D’Antoni in Los Angeles after other coaches and execs “raved” about his approach to offense.”
Gentry was a former interim coach for the Miami Heat in the 1994-95 season. Gentry also coached the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns. His best NBA achievement was during his first full season as head coach of the Suns during the 2009-10 season when he led them to the Western Conference Finals, losing to the LA Lakers in six games. He was fired by the Suns halfway in to the 2012-13 season. In July 2013, Gentry moved back to the Clippers as Doc Rivers’ lead assistant and the team’s offensive coach.
Along with Rivers, Gentry is widely believed to be responsible for transforming the Clippers into the NBA’s highest scoring team this past season, at 107.9 points per game, while placing second in the league in assists, at 23.8 assists per game. The Clippers also shot 47.4% from the field, which was good for third best in the NBA during the 2013-14 regular season.
That being said, the supposed catch with Gentry is that because he was Mike D’Antoni’s side kick in Phoenix, his offense is basically the same as the one that D’Antoni ran last season. We all know how Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant despised that offense, however that’s not the case. In 2010, AZCentral.com reported:
“When Porter was hired as the anti-D’Antoni, the Suns wanted an image change but not the drastic one that caused Porter to lose his players. Gentry has pulled off what Porter tried – using more bench, emphasizing defense and accepting a slower pace with more post-ups. He communicates with players better, approaching them when he knows they are angry rather than avoiding confrontation.Gentry lauds D’Antoni’s offense but did alter it.”
Perhaps it’s this alteration that’s caught the eye of Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers.
USAToday.com reported on May 25, 2014:
“In the wake of the Memphis Grizzlies front-office shakeup that appears to have indirectly benefitted their former coach, a person with knowledge of the situation said Hollins is now in the mix for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers coaching positions.”
Hollins was a former NBA player who was the Portland Trail Blazers‘ #6th overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft. His first head coaching job was as an interim coach for the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1999. He returned as the interim coach again in 2004 when the franchise had moved to Memphis. In 2008, he became an assistant to Scott Skiles with the Milwaukee Bucks. Finally, in his third tour of duty with the Grizzlies in 2009, he became the full time head coach, until his contract was not renewed last season by Memphis.
Should the Lakers select Hollins, he would be the anti-D’Antoni. In his four seasons as head coach at Memphis, Hollins transformed the Grizzlies into a lean mean defensive machine. The Grizzlies’ defense allowed 104.0 points per game in 2009 (#24 in the NBA) during Hollins’ first season. In Hollins’ final season with the Grizzlies in 2012-13, they topped the NBA in Opponent Points Per Game at 89.3. The Grizzlies’ defense evolved under Hollins, and although their offense was never one of the best in the NBA, defense brought them to three playoff appearances in Hollins’ four full seasons at Memphis. The Grizzlies reached the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13 after finishing with a franchise best 56 wins during the regular season.
BleacherReport.com has a good point in why Hollins would fit well with the Lakers. In a report on May 26, 2014:
“Steve Nash’s career continues to hang in the balance, and Bryant appeared in only six games this past season. Neither of them are guaranteed to return to their offensive roots. In many ways, they never will, even if they’re healthy. Running up and down the floor with ease is no longer an option for either veteran. The days of spearheading fast-paced, explosive offensive attacks are over. That’s why D’Antoni quickly became a poor fit for this club.”
The Lakers have forgotten how to play defense since the Zen Master left town. That’s the reason why the last two years have been terrible, but with Hollins around, that may change, and so would their fortunes.
Yahoo.com reported this on May 21, 2014:
“Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met with Mike Dunleavy Sr. to discuss the franchise’s head coaching job on Sunday morning, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”
“Dunleavy has emerged as a candidate for the Lakers, who plan to seriously start searching for a new coach in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery. The Lakers will hold the seventh overall pick in the draft.”
Dunleavy Sr. has 17-years of coaching experience in the NBA, which started with the Lakers in 1990-91. He immediately took the Lakers to the 1991 Finals, losing 4-1 to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The following season, the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs and then Dunleavy moved to Milwaukee for the next four seasons.
The Bucks never made the postseason in Dunleavy’s tenure. After his transfer to Portland, he led the Blazers to four playoff appearances in four seasons while reaching the Western Conference Finals twice in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
Dunleavy then moved on to the Clippers in 2003 as head coach, then doubled as General Manager. In 2005-06, he led the Clippers to their first ever playoff appearance since 1997, but that happened to be their only trip to the playoffs under Dunleavy’s tutelage. Dunleavy and the Clippers parted ways in 2010 on bad terms. He sued the Clippers and was awarded $13 million by an arbitrator in 2011.
The report by Yahoo.com continued:
“Dunleavy’s 17 seasons as an NBA head coach – including stops with the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers – give him the big-market background and skill set to deal with the pressures and responsibilities of the Lakers’ position and the credibility to coach All-Star Kobe Bryant. Dunleavy, 60, built a reputation as one of the league’s more innovative tacticians in his career.”
Among their coaching choices, Dunleavy is the most senior. He also has the most experience among them, and that breeds credibility. However, BleacherReport.com reports that it could go the other way:
“L.A. needs to find a coach who’s in it for the long haul. With both the clock and a lackluster track record working against him, Dunleavy doesn’t seem to be that guy.”
It’s tough to judge Dunleavy by age and track record, because the memories of him in LA are those of the 1991 NBA Finals. Not the loss, but making it all the way to the finals.
Howard Beck of BleacherReport.com said this via CBSSports.com on June 12, 2014:
“Rambis also remains a favorite for the Lakers’ head-coaching position, according to league sources. The Lakers have interviewed at least a half-dozen coaches, but sources say they are focused on three primary candidates: Rambis, Alvin Gentry and Byron Scott.”
Rambis is Lakers royalty. He was part of Magic Johnson’s showtime crew in the 80’s as the hard-nosed defense stopper and rebounder who wore glasses on the court. Rambis also pinched in to coaching the Lakers during the 1999 season, leading them to a regular season record of 23-14 and sending them to the Western Conference Finals.
That being said, his two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-2011 were terrible. He won a total of just 32 games in two seasons with the Wolves, despite having Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer and Ramon Sessions. Rambis is currently an assistant coach with the Lakers.
Rambis may have an upperhand over the first three choices: Gentry, Hollins and Dunleavy. As Yahoo.com reported back on August 5, 2013:
“Los Angeles Lakers fans love a good conspiracy, and they love them some Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson loves Kurt Rambis, the Lakers’ newest assistant coach, a man that preceded Jackson as Lakers coach in 1999 and worked under Phil as an assistant for years following. The Jackson family (included fiancée Jeannie Buss) and the Rambis family are also especially tight. Jackson and Rambis are also quite tight, and fond of, the triple-post (triangle) offense, which both Jackson and Rambis have utilized as head coaches to varying degrees of success.”
During D’Antoni’s tenure as head coach, Rambis kept on saying from the background that the Lakers shouldn’t be running that much with an aging Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. He also wanted to utilize Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol when they were both in LA.
Now that D’Antoni’s gone and that Rambis theories were correct, he might have caught the eye of Mitch Kupchak, especially since they were former teammates in the 80’s.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on June 11, 2014, Scott could be “it” for the Lakers:
“Sources: Today Byron Scott met with Lakers for 2nd time to discuss head coaching position. Scott is only coach so far to have 2 interviews”
A first interview means maybe a second one, and it does give an indication that the Lakers are interested in Byron Scott.
Like Rambis, Scott was part of the Showtime crew of the 80’s, and later became head coach of the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers. Scott took the Nets to two NBA Finals appearances in 2001 and 2002. He took the Hornets to two playoff appearances in five years as coach. He was the coach in Cleveland during the post “Decision” era, and he failed to reach the playoffs in each of his three seasons there.
The key for Scott will be his experience with the Nets. According to BleacherReport.com on June 12, 2014:
“His first gig is the one that will have Los Angeles gushing. The Nets made two NBA Finals appearances under his watch. During his time in control—which came amid the Jason Kidd glory days—he showed an ability to balance the egos of veterans and certain young guns.”
The Lakers have the biggest of egos, like Kobe Bryant. In fact, Kupchak had said that Bryant would be a factor in choosing the coach. In the same BleacherReport.com, it quotes Kupchak as saying:
“We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach really gets the most productivity out of (Bryant), whether it’s scoring the ball or play-making or the threat that he may score. That’s probably of primary importance right now.”
Scott knows Kobe Bryant more than the other coaching candidates do. He played with Bryant on the Lakers squad when Kobe was a rookie. So among the choices, Scott is the one that Kobe knows personally, and because he’s played with Bryant for one full season, he may be the only to understand why Kobe is Kobe.