Can Anyone Coach the Lakers?
In a move that won't surprise any of the thousands of people who devote their lives to interpreting Kobe Bryant's body language, the Los Angeles Lakers just fired their head coach Mike Brown a mere five games into the season. By doing so, they abandoned the franchise's much-discussed Princeton Offense, a game plan that worked for a bunch of crew-cut Ivy-Leaguers in the 1970s but was not quite as effective when run by Kobe, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard. Surprising, I know, but this afternoon even the most casual of basketball fans (i.e., Lakers fans) are asking some questions.
Aren’t the Lakers Supposed to Be Good?
Usually, yes, and they very likely are good this year too. Chemistry is a very important thing, and when a team overhauls its personnel, sometimes it takes more than five games to develop. Yeah sometimes you can swap out Dez for Rollins, things click right away and you come out with Damaged, but just as easily shit can go pear-shaped and you end up with an Audioslave on your hands. Even so, when you add two superstars to a team that’s supposed to compete with the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the NBA, a 1-4 start can cause some people to panic. I know you might hear some people saying, “But hasn’t Steve Nash been out with a knee injury for the past three games? Do you we really expect this team to be clicking right now without him?” This is a tempered, rational response, and as such belongs nowhere near our contemporary sports media landscape, especially the wasteland of insanity that is Lakers Nation. And make no mistake, this is certainly a panic move, though that’s not to say it came without warning. There was a nationally televised, Hall-of-Fame caliber mean-mugging from Kobe towards Brown on Wednesday night. This was followed on Thursday by the Lakers’ owner offering a very public vote of confidence towards his coach and as we’ve learned, a public vote of confidence from your owner is the NBA front-office equivalent of “Who Shot Ya?”
What’s up with Kobe?
By all accounts, the man is an intensely focused sociopath, and I mean that in the most generous way. He’s always wanted to prove that he’s on the same level as Michael Jordan, and his window to do just that by winning a pile of championships is closing pretty quickly. He’s arguably the second or third most powerful figure in the Lakers organization, and yet Mike Brown was hired as head coach without his input. Now, am I saying that Kobe suggested over the summer to Mike Brown that they install the Princeton offense, an offense that has never seen any real success in the NBA, to foment early-season chaos and move up the ouster of the man Bryant never wanted as coach in the first place, thereby giving Kobe the opportunity to install a coach he does want? Well, I wasn't saying that, but now that I bring it up...
Who might be the next Lakers coach?
Bernie Bickerstaff, the assistant coach, is running the show on Friday and the team is working on the interim coach stuff now, but they won't last. So here's your look at the guys who probably will get the job.
Mike D'Antoni: Once the most sought-after coach in the league for his immensely entertaining style of offense, perfected by the Steve Nash/Amar'e Stoudemire-led Phoenix Suns of the mid-aughts, now a mangled corpse run through the threshing mechanisms of a James Dolan-owned corporation. Still, he's a "name," which is an important aspect when considering a potential coach for the SHOWTIME Lakers. Players supposedly love playing for him due to the fact that he won't force them make an effort on defense. Seems like a perfect fit, but he won't be able to coach until December, since he's recovering from knee-replacement surgery.
Onetime Lakers coaching staff, from left: Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis, Phil Jackson.
Phil Jackson: Needs no introduction, but he has the most rings of any coach alive or dead, and boasts amorous relations with the owner Jerry Buss' daughter, to boot. Will the Buss family be able to offer enough money to convince Jackson to return? Will the equipment manager be able to find a folding chair high enough for his replacement hips and fused spine to be comfortable? More importantly, can he exist in the same room with Kobe? (Gonna guess "no" on that last one, you guys.)
Kurt Rambis: Former Laker, former NBA head coach, a fashion-forward thinker who was 20 years ahead of the curve in terms of pairing rugged facial hair with clunky eyewear. If you squint your eyes hard enough, he resembles Phil Jackson, albeit minus almost all his talent and charisma. Last seen trying to run the triangle offense with a team (Minnesota) incredibly ill-equipped to do so. Pencil him in as the odds-on favorite, especially because I just started searching "Kurt Rambis" and Google autocompleted with "Kurt Rambis good coach."
Jerry Sloan: Former coach of the Utah Jazz (you remember, the collection of white guys and Karl Malone that always lost to Michael Jordan in the'90s). Last seen being run out of town by a moody point guard who looks like he could be Prince's little brother (aka Deron Williams, the centerpiece of your new favorite apparel line known as the Brooklyn Nets). I think Sloan coaching the Lakers could only a possibility in Mitt Romney's America.
Stan Van Gundy: Diet soda connoisseur, the Mario to his brother Jeff’s Luigi, and responsible for the single-greatest impromptu press conference in NBA history. Said press conference is also the reason why his descendants will be locked in a gruesome blood feud with Dwight Howard’s great-great-great-grandchildren long after the rest of humanity's survivors have banded together to fight against the cyborg overlords. A shame really, because he’s overqualified, and extremely susceptible to being undermined by those within his organization. A great fit for LA.
Isiah Thomas: Known to Italians as the "American Mike D'Antoni," and no stranger to coaching a team of lunatics who possess questionable sexual discretion. Feared by every fanbase in the league for all the wrong reasons. Left off the 1992 Olympic Dream Team because nobody could stand to be around him. Bankrupted a minor league basketball league almost single-handedly. Once overdosed on prescription meds and after paramedics revived him, tried to convince the press that it was actually one of his children who OD'd. I really have a hard time seeing a downside with this one.