The Lakers have already received permission to interview Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina, but he is not their only target who is currently assisting a league powerhouse hoping to make a run to the championship. The other, of course, is the Warriors’ Luke Walton and the Lakers have moved quickly to get permission to interview their former 2nd round draft pick as well.
We’ve reached a point with the Lakers where when an executive speaks, we have to hold our breath for the inevitable backlash as each sentence is broken down, word by word. Tuesday morning, when tweets came across the timeline that Jeanie Buss would be speaking publicly on the state of the Lakers with Colin Cowherd, my immediate and visceral reaction was “great, more of this.” In following with recent seasons, her comments didn’t meet my already considerably lowered expectations.
The appearance leaves more questions than answers, following a trend the Lakers need to correct if the organization wants to earn back the fanbase’s confidence they’ve lost due to how these last few seasons have gone.
Here’s the full interview:
After parting ways with Byron Scott on Sunday, the Lakers are already moving forward in their search for a new head coach. While they are expected to look at a long list of candidates, it is a fair assumption they have a short list of top choices they would like to interview and gauge interest in soon.
Mitch Kupchak noted on Monday he does not envision the hiring process being strung out, explaining a hire could be made as quickly as within two weeks. In order to get the ball rolling, then, they must start to reach out to potential candidates and line them up for interviews. Well, that process has begun.
Byron Scott is no longer the Lakers’ coach. While a vocal portion of fans rejoice loudly, right with them there is also a chorus of questions about next steps and whether those in charge are going to make a coaching decision which propels the team forward. The doubts this will happen are real and they exist for the exact reason there is even a choice to make now.
We have written about the Lakers deliberating on Byron Scott’s future as head coach, but a decision has been made. Scott will not return to coach the Lakers for a third season. Per the team’s press release:
“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Unbeknownst to me (and many others, I’m assuming), the Lakers held team options on both the third and fourth years of Scott’s contract. This decision then, was made even easier since the team was not eating any salary and could start new next season with a choice to usher in a new era of Lakers’ basketball.
Per Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, the Lakers will have a long list of candidates for their opening. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the list will include Warriors’ assistant Luke Walton, Spurs’ assistant Ettore Messina, current ESPN analyst and former Knicks/Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy, and current UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie. That’s already a wide net of candidates, but I’m sure we’ll hear even more names over the coming days and weeks.
The Lakers are coming off their two worst seasons in franchise history. Consecutive seasons featuring descending wins from 21 to 17 have left the team the butt of jokes and fans anxious about the future of the team. Or, more specifically, the future of the head coach who guided his team to those records.
Waiting is never easy, but waiting is really all we can do. At his exit interview, Mitch Kupchak said he expected to have a sit-down with Scott and Jim Buss within a couple of weeks. That statement came on the heels of reports the team’s top decision makers were either leaning towards keeping Scott on or that fractured ownership and competing agendas would make a change unlikely.
Other reports note the front office is simply trying to decide:
Sacramento just getting started; Lakers deliberating whether to keep Byron Scott; Knicks' focus, for now, remains Kurt Rambis & David Blatt
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
If you ask a vocal subset of Lakers’ fans, they’d probably incredulously ask what is there to deliberate? Scott has the stain of 38 wins over two seasons lording over him. He consistently pointed the finger at his team, and never himself, for the team’s on-court failures. He threw his young players under the bus to the media and jerked around their minutes. He didn’t do an appreciably good job of managing rotations. His schemes were antiquated, ineffective, or both. So, again, what is there to deliberate?
While Lakers’ fans bask in the afterglow of Kobe’s final game and wait on front office decisions on the head coach, the draft, and free agency it looks as if some decisions are being made for them already. Or at least one of them is as Brandon Bass has decided how he will handle his player option for the 2016-17 season.
It’s been nearly a week since the Lakers’ season ended with Kobe Bryant adding to his myth by scoring 60 points on 50 shots while also slaying a dragon and eating an entire extra-large pepperoni pizza at the same time. Okay, two of those things didn’t happen, but maybe in 50 years, and the story is retold they will have.
In the days since the performance, the focus of those who we look to for Lakers’ news has been undeniably and unabashedly Kobe. This was to be expected, of course. 20 years of playing the game at the heights he did with the approach he took requires, no, demands, a retelling. The good, the bad, and everything in-between.
If you’re looking for more of that, look no further than Ramona Shelburne’s latest for ESPN/The Undefeated. Shelburne used great access to give us a peek inside Kobe’s world, from the rehab table to his Kobe Inc. office to the training room to the diner breakfast table and so many other moments that have not been told to this point. The entire thing is a fantastic read and is worth your time.
It’s articles like that, though, that you need now. You need them because while the rest of the basketball world moves forward, the Lakers’ world has not. The playoffs are in full swing, teams are letting go of their current coaches, hiring new ones, and interviewing big names with aims of managing the sideline and running the front office all at the same time.
Meanwhile, we wait.