Who Will Emerge From the Lakers' Disastrous Coaching Search?

May 09, 2019 - 10:34 am

The search for the next Los Angeles Lakers head coach continues to be much more difficult than anticipated.

It appeared as if LeBron James’ former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue was on the fast track to get the job, but the negotiations deteriorated, culminating in Wednesday's news that Lue had rejected a three-year offer and withdrawn from consideration. Now the Lakers -- amid a front office mess in the wake of Magic Johnson's resignation -- have turned their attention to other coaches, per The Athletic

Here are some of the candidates the Lakers are targeting and other potential options:

Jason Kidd

The Lakers reportedly interviewed Kidd prior to the Lue negotiations and wanted Kidd as an assistant on Lue’s staff, which was a sticking point. After a 19-year NBA career, Kidd immediately became head coach of the Brooklyn Nets for one season, leading them to the second round of the playoffs. Then, after a failed power play, he joined the Milwaukee Bucks. He went 139-152 in three-plus seasons, but was fired before the Bucks emerged as a power in the Eastern Conference this year. 

Juwan Howard

If familiarity with James is a priority, Howard makes a lot of sense. The 46-year-old was teammates with James for three seasons in Miami and an assistant coach in James’ final year with the Heat. Howard has continued to work as an assistant coach and likely would be the only first-year coach James would trust. He also has a relationship with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, his teammate at the University of Michigan.

Mike Woodson

Woodson has two 50-win seasons under his belt — with the 2009-10 Atlanta Hawks and 2012-13 New York Knicks — but has an uninspiring 315-365 career record. He has not been a head coach since 2013-14, spending the next four years as an assistant under Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers. Woodson has a reputation as a defensive-minded coach. He has experience handling big personalities, including James' friend Carmelo Anthony, which also came with the media spotlight of coaching in New York.

Frank Vogel

Vogel also was floated as a potential assistant if Lue were hired. He led the Indiana Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals during the Roy Hibbert-Paul George era from 2012-14, but was fired after six years in Indiana in 2016. Vogel then had an unsuccessful two years with the Orlando Magic. Vogel is the only coach known to be under consideration with career record over .500, and built a reputation as a defense-oriented coach in Indiana with Hibbert and David West. He would not have bigs like that with the Lakers, unless Anthony Davis comes to town.

Lionel Hollins

Hollins (career record: 262-272) led the Memphis Grizzlies to the postseason three consecutive years from 2011-13 and the Nets to the playoffs in 2013-14. Hollins has not coached since 2015-16, but has expressed interest in coming back. He could be an ideal fit for a young Lakers squad, but will his strict coaching style be the right fit with James?

LeBron James

If none of these coaching candidates meet James' approval, perhaps he should take over as a player-coach. There has not been a player-coach in the NBA since David Cowens coached the Boston Celtics in 1978-79, and with the exception of Bill Russell from 1966-69, they have historically not fared too well. Yet if anyone can do it in this era, why not James? He has been described as many a de facto coach already and has gone through seven coaches in his career, an awful lot for a star player. Perhaps it is an experiment worth trying.

Phil Jackson

OK, OK, this probably will not happen. Jackson, who used to date Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, has not coached since 2011. He has 11 rings as a head coach, with the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls and the Kobe Bryant Lakers. He also had a disastrous run as New York Knicks president, insists on the outdated triangle offense, and -- perhaps most relevantly -- publicly feuded with James in 2016 over comments that referred to James' inner circle as his "posse." But if things get really bad during the coaching search, perhaps Buss tosses up a Hail Mary and gets Jackson to come back.

By John Healy