In Search Of A Head Coach

Darius Soriano —  May 13, 2011

The Lakers need a new head coach. Phil Jackson, and all his championship rings are saying goodbye to the Lakers and with his departure a new man will roam the sidelines as head coach. And, unless you’ve been grieving the Lakers early exit from the playoffs (something I wouldn’t knock you for), you’ve read that Rick Adelman has appeared as a person of interest to fill the Lakers’ vacancy. As Marc Stein and Dave McMenamin report:

Yet sources say Lakers officials are intrigued by the Adelman option, not only because of his history of success in Portland, Sacramento and Houston but also his reputation for thriving with veteran teams and the similarities between Adelman’s “corner” offense and Jackson’s “triangle” offense.

The question isn’t if Adelman would be a good fit, as the answer to that question is a certain yes. Adelman is an accomplished head coach that’s coached in the Finals and has a strong history of leading excellent teams deep into the playoffs.

The question is, however, what to make of the Lakers opening up their search when Brian Shaw has long been rumored to be next in line in replacing Phil Jackson. Some thoughts on this:

  • Brian Shaw is still a viable candidate and the person who should still be favored to get the position. He has the support of the current players (including Kobe Bryant), brings a familiar system, and has been groomed for this position. He’ll be interviewed for the job and all signs say that he’ll do well for himself in sitdowns with the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak.
  • The Lakers, as usual, will be patient with any major decision. When the Lakers traded Shaq, they looked at a variety of options before finally pulling the trigger on the deal with Miami. The backstory surrounding the Pau Gasol trade is that Mitch Kupchak worked the phones for nearly two seasons trying to pry the big Spaniard loose from the Grizzlies. When Kobe was angling for a trade before the 2007-08 season, they held firm that they would look at every deal with an open mind but clearly stated that they would only make a deal that made sense and improved their team. No such deal developed and two championships later their patience was rewarded. In the aftermath of the team’s early playoff exit, Mitch Kupchak has again preached that he’ll excercise patience and won’t make any rash decisions. He said they’ll begin their search in the next couple of weeks and I believe that even with names starting to leak to the press, Mitch and Buss family have in no way made up their mind.
  • Based off Adelman’s history of success and the fact that he runs a similar read and react offensive system, it’s clear that the Lakers understand their personnel and know what type of offensive system will work best for this group. Be it the Triangle or Adelman’s “corner” offense (that incorporates many aspects of the Princeton offense where back cuts and multiple off ball reads are made each play), the Lakers are built to be a passing and movement team – even if they didn’t execute those things well in the playoffs.
  • The Lakers want someone with experience managing players. Adelman has coached Ron Artest in the past. He’s coached superstar level players in Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, and Tracy McGrady. Brian Shaw has a history of being a locker room leader as both a player and a coach and has related well to guys like Shaq, Kobe, and Pau Gasol. Whoever the Lakers next coach is, expect that he has a history with players of high stature.

Don’t expect Adelman and Shaw to be the only viable names, either. Reports are also surfacing that Chuck Person will be interviewed and that ex-Laker and Clipper head man Mike Dunleavy is someone that will be considered. While I doubt that either of these two will actually get the head job, understand that their inclusion in any list only further speaks to the Lakers wanting to be patient and explore their options.

No one understands better than this front office that the Lakers are built to win now. With the core of this roster locked up under contract for the next several years, this decision of who will coach the team is the most important one the organization will make this off-season. After it’s made I’m sure there will be options explored to improve the roster but getting this right is a priority.

And with hat being said, don’t be suprised if Dr. Buss (an avid poker player) slow plays this hand. He’s got time on his side and options to explore.

Darius Soriano

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33 responses to In Search Of A Head Coach

  1. Big “No!” to Dunleavy. Really? Didn’t the Lakers FO watch him repeatedly crap the bed in the same arena? I think it’s just the Lakers FO wanting to cover all their bases.

    Adelman, Shaw, Van Gundy. I agree with that list. JVG can flat out coach defense, arguably as good as Thibodeau. His weakness has always been offensive creativity. Adelman is renowned for his offense, but I believe with the right players, he can coach a solid defensive system too. Shaw for the sake of continuity. Dunleavy for the sake of punishing Lakers fans everywhere for their knee-jerk reactions.

    Can we convince Luke Walton to become an assistant coach and get out from under his contract?

    Serious question – when new coaches are hired, don’t they always pick their own coaching staffs? Although I like Adelman, I’d hate to see Shaw, Hamblem, Cleamons, and everyone go. That complete lack of continuity might hurt us.

    I’m terrified if we hire Van Gundy, that he’ll bring Mark Jackson with him as an assistant coach. You saw how Artest, Odom, and Bynum react when they’re angry. What do you think they’ll do after the hundredth time they hear “Mama, there goes that man!” or coaching pearls of wisdom like “Hand down, man down!” I might even choke him.

  2. In response to busboys4me:
    “trading Sasha to save another $5 million and other penny penching moves killed us”

    Calling the Lakers “penny-pinching” isn’t accurate, considering they have the largest payroll by far, and are well past the luxury tax threshold.

  3. I think this will be my last post for a while, but I still will be reading the initial blogs.

    We all seem to be anxious to bring our currant biases along and forget that this is both a passion and a business. Sitting on the sideline and spouting one extreme statement or another just shows how we are reacting to our current “hurts” and not doing much in the way of analysis.

    There are several really good commenters on this site, but this time of year they add their thoughts less and less.

    Keep up the good work Darius and ‘all'; see you in the fall – unless something happens that I absolutely must comment on.

  4. I think Brian Shaw should take Golden St job.Right now some players want him to stay in LA, but will they listen to him when they loose 3, 4 games in a row or in the playoffs ? They asked Phil to come back, and they played terrible .Brian Shaw can gain experience with young players, develope them, and after 3 years he will come back to LA, he is still young.
    Rick Aldeman had smart strategy for Houston to play against Lakers, he said:” Lakers biggers, but we are quicker”. New Orleans used that strategy against Lakers in round 1 this year. I just hope Aldeman can hire good defensive assistant coach, Lakers will be alright

  5. I’m always the guy who wants the most talent and in regards to coaching I feel the same way. We are the Lakers… We deserve the best. If I’m the GM I do whatever it takes to get Adelman as the head coach and bring in JVG to be in charge of the defense. Then I grab an OJ Mayo type player (big guard who can defend and shoot) to start alongside Kobe. I also get a back up Center via the draft who can rebound and defend. We win the championship. done.

  6. I wouldn’t mind Rick Adelman. Those Houston players always played so hard for him, and some of that credit has to be given to the coach. The biggest problem I had with the Lakers team this year is it didn’t seem like they ever really wanted to play hard. Maybe Adelman will get that out of them, I dont know. How is Artest’s relationship with him? How about Kobe’s? If they don’t like the guy from the getgo, it doesnt matter how good of a coach he is, they wont listen to him.

    Also, if Mike Dunleavy becomes the coach of this team, I won’t be able to watch. I watched him single-handedly obliterate the confidence of at least 15 different Clipper players, and there is no discernable coaching skill that I think he is especially good at. I would lose a ton of respect for Jim Buss and Mitch if they hired that guy after seeing what he did at his last four stops.

    And Shaw can’t be the coach. The Lakers were unable to, or refused to, run the triangle with Phil as their coach – at least on a consistent basis. Please someone explain to me why, with essentially the same players next year, and no real shooters from outside, that this would change.

  7. Ok, GM Aaron – lets just go get an athletic guard that can both defend and shoot – a la OJ Mayo. Those guys seem to just grow on trees….

    Especially with the assets that we have, unless you are trading away a big piece, I don’t see how that is possible.

  8. @7 actually the request was a BIG athletic guard that can defend and shoot. And a center who can defend and rebound. We should be able to sign both of those with the midlevel exception. No worries, right?

  9. OJ Mayo is a bench player. Those guys are not that hard to find. Smaller athletic SG’s that don’t have true PG skills are the most common type of player in the league since most teams need true PGs they are usually easy and cheap to obtain. As far as a back up Center… I’m not asking for a starting quality Center… A back up Center ala Jordan with the Clippers with no offensive skills is an option. Where did the Clippers draft him you ask? Well… I’m glad you asked. They got him in the second round. A round in which the Lakers have four draft picks this season.

  10. If there is one thing the Mavericks showed, it’s that the team isn’t that committed to defense. The new coach will have to find a way to push the D button. But I think it has to be the D button with the triangle O.

    The coaches are all fine, but if it’s not the triangle, it’s going to create chaos for the team…even if it’s the corner. Adelman may have coached veteran teams, but not veteran teams where the top 7 players in the player rotation had been together playing in the same offense for 2 years or more. It’s got to be Shaw, or someone else who really knows the traingle…perhaps in 3 years when Bryant, Odom, and Gasol aren’t the stars, another offense will fit Bynum and whomever else is on the roster…though Bynum has never played in any other offense…

    A change in philosophy would necessitate a roster turnover…but aged or not, gritty or not, this is still by far the most talented roster in the NBA (Dallas is older, so don’t tell me they’ve degraded below Dallas…Dallas just wanted it more…And Miami and Boston don’t have a legitimate post player, so don’t expect them to compete with Dirk either).

  11. One name not yet mentioned, because he isn’t available right now: Stan Van Gundy.

    No, his demeanor and style may not be the best for an old, veteran team. But the guy is flat-out one of the best coaches in the game. If he becomes available, he supplants his brother in my top 3. SVG is as good a defensive coach as JVG, but a superior offensive coach.

    I watched 90% of Heat games during the 04-05 season, and I remain convinced to this day that had Shaq and Wade been healthy, that team would have made it past Detroit and taken SA to the limit.

  12. I always admired (and hated) Adelman’s teams. Kings and then Rockets were efficient and played true team basketball. Heck, if it weren’t for Phil, Shaq and Kobe, the guy probably would’ve had at least one ring. I hear his Portland team was pretty darn good too (this is before my time though). As for JVG, I must be one of the few fans of his on this site. The guy make complete sense as a commentator on TV, and loves exploiting match-ups directly. This is on top of some great defensive work over the years, of course.

    The problem with both is that they’ve never won it all during their fairly lengthy careers. It feels like a proven winner is necessary if we are to keep our core together. Problem is, almost none of those guys are available (Larry Brown is weeping somewhere).

    Whoever we hire, I don’t see why we can’t keep Shaw in his assistant role. He can continue to capitalize on his strengths as a players’ coach and build a bridge between the new head coach and the team.

    Oh, and PLEASE NO DUNLEAVY!!! PLEASE.

  13. I have been an avid Lakers fan since 1960. I find it fascinating that they have never had a African-American coach (Magic’s three weeks excepted). Ninety percent of the players are African-American, and there are many, many candidates. If they hire somebody like a pasty retread like Dunleavy, I am outta-here!!!!

  14. Long time reader.. first time poster…

    HC’s for the champs of the last 20 years:

    91-93,96-98, 00-02,09-10 Phil
    94-95 Rudy T
    99,03,05,07 Pop
    04 Larry Brown
    06 Riley
    08 Doc River

    Which is to say that finding HCs who are proven winner via their champ pedigree is impossible (there are 6, 5 of them I can’t imagine coming, 1 of them just finished with us and hoarded 11 of 20 chips), I think we should cut the candidates some slack in their champ pedigree

  15. I don’t think winning it all is the best measure of available coaching prospects. In the past 20 years, only 6 coaches have won it all, and Phil Jackson’s teams account for 11 of those 20 titles (and in 3 of the titles he didn’t win, Phil’s team lost to the eventual champ.) Pretty amazing stats for a coach when you think about it. Bottom line is any choice is going to come with a bit of a risk since the availability of championship-winning coaches is pretty limited.

    One thing I do agree with is that Dunleavy would be a TURRIBLE choice.

  16. No.No.No.Heck,no. No Dunleavy. Again, no Dunleavy.

    I’ll take 76+ year old Elgin Baylor before I would take Dunleavy, because Baylor would know to get out of the way of his players and coaches. It would be the only thing he could do, but it would be the right thing.

    Who’s making decisions in El Segundo, Fred Sanford?

  17. kehntangibles May 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I don’t want him either, but Dunleavey DID get us to the Finals in 1991, upsetting a higher-seeded Portland team en route, didn’t he?

  18. Great news for future Dwight Howard Laker Fans:

    Via Josh Robbins/Orlando Sentinel

    Kerr: Magic Following Roster Blueprint Of Cavaliers

    The Orlando Magic’s options are severely limited by an oversized payroll and by a roster that lacks attractive trade assets.

    “I just feel like they’ve kind of gone down the same path as Cleveland went around LeBron [James],” Steve Kerr, an analyst for TNT and the former general manager of the Phoenix Suns, said during an interview Friday.

    “Not to make it an ominous sign, but they’ve really tried hard and they’ve spent a ton of money to put people around Dwight hoping that that would convince him to stay, hoping that that would get the franchise over the top.

    “But in the end, the risk was extending themselves on the cap and really hamstringing their future options. It was very similar to Cleveland, and I think that’s where Orlando is now. There’s no way — there’s no way — you can get Chris Paul or Deron Williams when you don’t have cap room and you don’t have assets.”

  19. Determining the next head coach depends on a few other things. Namely, what kind of team are the Lakers going to be? Is Kobe still the feature guy? Is he still going to play the same role? Will he bulk up and move to SF? Or will he become a facilitator? How will the other guys play off him? These are important considerations before naming a new coach. If the Lakers plan to keep Kobe in the exact same role, then it only makes sense to bring in Shaw. No, he is not Phil Jackson (no one is) but he will run the same system and play guys the same way.

    Adleman’s offense was at its best in Sacramento where it revolved around a point forward. Pau Gasol has the perfect skill set to be a point forward. On a team without a traditional point guard Gasol could really pick up the slack when it comes to initiating ball movement. I have no doubt Adleman could really get good results out of Pau Gasol. Plus, I would love to see Kobe playing off the ball again. Count me in the camp that is intrigued by Adleman.

    Of course none of this can move until the CBA is resolved. Who knows when that will happen.

  20. I think it will clearly be Adelman or Shaw.

  21. You want SVG: The master of panic? Control-freak Dunleavy? Adelman who choked the WCF? Might as well put Don Nelson on the list.

  22. Adelman has never had a championship roster – Kings roster was amazing in its own right, but none of the star players were proven champs. I’d be very curious to see what he could do with Kobe and Pau. Sounds like Jerry Buss is curious too, since everybody keeps chirping away how he’d like to bring Showtime back to LA. Rick’s systems sound like a great fit.

  23. I think Adelman will be an excellent replacement for the venerable Phil Jackson. He has an undeniably excellent record with several NBA teams in Portland, Sacramento, and the first two years of his Houston tenure. Although his record in the latter half of his Houston stint is not stellar at face value, the Rockets during this period were impaired due to injuries, including the notable absence of Yao Ming, and even then, Adelman was able to maintain the Rockets’ win-loss above 0.500 and, although not reaching the playoffs in the competitive Western conference his last two years, the Rockets’ record in each of those two years was higher than the records of the 7th- and 8th-seeded East NBA playoff teams. All signs indicate Adelman manages and relates well to players. Although the Rockets’ management decided not to retain Adelman upon his 4-year contract’s expiration, in their exit interviews, all players lobbied to bring Adelman back, which is saying much when the team had missed the playoffs for the final 2 years of his tenure. [Although the exact reasons have not been disclosed, reportedly the Rockets decided not to bring back Adelman because of friction between him and ownership. Almost everyone has friction with one or a few people, so Adelman’s situation is of little concern, especially as Adelman is not known for having problems with multiple people. Anyway, as a US general commented a long time ago, no one is any good who has no enemies.] Very few, if any players, have had significant friction with Adelman, who has managed successfully several high profile NBA players in their prime, such as Chris Webber, Clyde Drexler, Jason Williams, and Mike Bibby, among others. In addition, although Adelman is known primarily for his offense schemes, he has shown he is flexible and can coach defense adeptly; in the last two seasons, the Rockets became known and feared for their tenacious defense they lost much of their offensive firepower when Yao Ming went down.

    As someone who has rooted for various teams (Trail Blazers, Kings, Pistons, Celtics, Spurs) against the Lakers since 1999, I would be more interested in the Lakers if Los Angeles would give Adelman the coaching reins. That said, I also not find fault if the Lakers made Brian Shaw its head coach. Although he is a rookie, Shaw has been an assistant coach under Jackson for five years and may well have the coaching goods to handle the Lakers. He certainly has a more substantive resume than Vinny Del Negro, whom I still find difficult to believe was made the Chicago Bulls’ head coach apparently on the basis of a winsome interview and perhaps the aura of a former NBA player, but no official coaching experience whatsoever. Even more incredibly, after Del Negro’s coaching shortcomings were revealed in a mediocre year coaching the Bulls, he was able to secure a 2nd head coach position with the Los Angeles Clippers…well, perhaps not so surprising with the Clippers. [I have to also give Del Negro props for taking the Celtics to 7 games in the first round of 2009 playoffs; some can argue this reflects the players rather than the coach.] The fact that several players, including Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, support Shaw for their next head coach, is another positive for Shaw, although I believe players don’t always know what’s in their best interests, coaching-wise and other.

    I believe the Lakers will do very well by signing Adelman as head coach and, if this happens, I will be watching more Lakers games…just my very humble and inconsequential opinion.

  24. I forgot to add–the Lakers have no business even considering Mike Dunleavy. The fact that Dunleavy was abruptly fired as Clippers’ head coach–and replaced by the redoubtable Vinny Del Negro–should be warning off the Lakers.

  25. Wow, DH coming to LA would be fun, although I’m not really sure what Kobe would think about that. He’d be having two Orlando centers in his LA career ;)

    But who do we trade? Outside of Bynum, who must go in that scenario, I can only think that Gasol and Odom would be worth anyone’s while, but since Gasol has a big contract, it would most likely be Odom…

    That would leave our roster even thinner…

  26. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Just a comment for comments sake: dun’s firing wasnt abrupt – it was long overdue at clipperland.

  27. Renato Afonso May 14, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I would really hate to see Dunleavy back… He’s just not very good!

    I wish the Lakers decsion comes down to Shaw and Adelman. And, if he was up to it, would love to see Shaw as an assistant to Adelman. Before becoming a head coach I believe one must be an assistant in various schemes. Shaw only assisted Phil so far and thus only has coaching experience in the triangle. Run Adelman for 3 or 4 years and then Shaw can take over, making his own judgement on what’s the best tactic for the team.

  28. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2011 at 7:15 am

    While I like the Adelman proposition and while it still looks to me as Brian Shaw’s position to lose, my top choice is Jeff Van Gundy.

    If Tom Thibodeau can come up with a 62-win banner and rookie season in Chicago, a young rag-tag all-hustle team playing the right way, there is no reason JVG, TT’s mentor by the way, cannot transform the culture in Los Angeles by having them play the right way, or should I say have the right mindset and defensive approach.

    Sure LA is about the offense and entertainment, but its the rebounding and defense part of the equation that still was the common denominator in our 3 finals appearances and 2 chips. And please, speak to me not about “hunger” because its all in the head. Just because Artest won 1 doesn’t mean he doesn’t wanna add 1 more, or 3 more.

    Defense wins championships. LA has the crew to run its own offense. Van Gundy is wise enough to recognize that if LA plans to succeed, it will be using the triangle because its players are used to it and its a very good formula for success. Retaining Brian Shaw as an assistant will then become the top priority, although pretty much like Rambis, I would still be glad for him if he was offered a head-coaching gig somewhere like Golden State.

    I repeat, defense wins championship… and what better crew to do it with than with Artest, Bynum, Gasol and Kobe. Under JVG, the team will simply lock the opponents down to submission. Games will end in the 3rd quarter coz teams will be begging for LA to have them come out of Staples alive.

    JVG is the right coach and he’s my 2nd favorite coach of all time. Not only is he a proven winner but he has the IQ to match Kobe’s and that of the other Lakers. JVG provides what the team needs – focus on D. He is the coach you need to mold young Andrew into borrowing Dwight Howard’s perennial DPOY trophy.

    Edited for Speculation. You were so close to coming through unscathed, Warren… -Zephid

  29. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I hope my post ^ makes it through. Non-speculative in any way… just a little suggestive.

  30. @ exhelodrvr

    Have you ever heard of “penny wise and dollar stupid”. Yes, our FO got tired of spending money. Yes, they have the highest payroll. But when we got nothing in return for Sasha we basically said to hell with our depth. The same thing can be said for not signing Mbenga. I didn’t say the Lakers were Sterlingesque, I said their penny penching moves had consequences.

  31. I’d love to see B. Shaw get the chance. He’s paid his dues. He was always a very intelligent, smart, calm player on the court and he obviously knows the system. If the Lakers take Adelman, they would have to adapt an offensive system to which many players are accustomed. Yes, he might be a good coach and I do think the fact that they’re thinking about him is a credit to the astuteness of the Lakers’ brass, but Shaw, I believe, would let the Lakers play. He would ensure that there is some continuity between Phil’s leadership and the future.

    I too like JVG but I am skeptical as to whether his hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach would be well-received by the veteran team that we have. And please, I’d rather have any of the commenters at FB&G than Dunleavy as coach.

  32. Could JVG be hired, with Shaw as offensive coordinator? Keep the O intact, get a new voice, new defense, new motivation and drive!?