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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