Pat Riley is 77. Phil Jackson is 76.
As the Los Angeles Lakers coaching search goes on, it’s easy to think about those two legends who brought glory – and championships – to the franchise.
Jackson nor Riles are likely coming back to the Lakers bench right now. We only put in ‘likely’ because you never know in the Lakers soap opera.
After a brutal year of watching Russell Westbrook flail, Anthony Davis get hurt and LeBron James go one-on-five, the Lakers fired Frank Vogel.
Now they’re in limbo.
The NBA playoffs are going on. The Golden State Warriors, once an afterthought, now have the iconic player(s) and coach in Steve Kerr. The Lakers have questions. What to do with Westbrook is one, but the biggest is who should coach the team?
Here are the long shots, maybes and prospects.
Lakers head coaching front-runners
Stotts led the TrailBlazers to the playoffs for eight years in a row. He coached the Hawks and Bucks and was an assistant when the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA title.
His winning percentage in the NBA is a ho-hum .515. There’s nothing really wrong with Stotts other than he doesn’t ooze much charisma. He’s a veteran, solid coach. Would this legion of Laker stars play for him?
Warriors players still – to this day – give Jackson credit for laying the foundation for their dynasty. His tenure with the Warriors came with a lot of behind-the-scenes strife. Allegations that he demeaned an injured player and played the Jesus Card turned people off.
He’s had a good career as a TV analyst, so he knows the NBA right now and he has enough street cred to galvanize the Lakers, right?
But if he was such a good coach, why didn’t anyone else hire him after he left the Warriors in 2014? The Kings are also rumored to be interested.
The Bucks assistant was interviewed for the Lakers job and he would provide a jolt of youth (he’s only 48) and passion.
Ham was an assistant with the Lakers from 2011-13, so he understands what happens there.
He was considered a key part of the team that won the NBA title in 2021, but he also may be lined up to take the Charlotte Hornets job. The Lakers also may be leery of giving him his first NBA head coaching job.
Griffin was a grinder in his NBA career, far from a star, playing for six teams in nine years. He’s been a lead assistant for the Magic, Thunder and Raptors and helped Toronto win the 2019 NBA title.
He is 47, another plus, but lack of head coaching experience is a knock.
His name has come up a lot in conversation. Rivers won an NBA title with the Celtics in 2008. He’s personable, honest and widely respected. He was Coach of the Year in 2000 with the Orlando Magic.
He also has a good job.
Rivers is the coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, who are a bit of a soap opera themselves but are likely much closer to winning an NBA title than the Lakers are.
By virtue of his hair alone, Quin Snyder is a serious candidate for the Lakers job. He has the right pedigree: Duke graduate and star, coached with the Lakers as an assistant.
But he too has another job: head coach of the Utah Jazz. Can be enticed to come to LA? It’s kind of the same as Rivers, why would he leave a franchise that is closer to winning a title than the Lakers?
“Wow, that would be something!”
Here are a few crazy options for the Lakers to consider:
Mark Few: He’s been at Gonzaga for 23 years and done everything but win an NCAA title. He’s making $3 million a year. The Lakers could triple that.
Bill Self: The Kansas coach is coming off an NCAA title, but eventually NCAA sanctions are going to catch up to Self. Right? Maybe? You know where there are no NCAA sanctions? The NBA.
Mike Krzyzewski: At 75, Krzyzewski just retired from Duke after an amazing career. Still, if you’re the Lakers, you make the call, right? Just to check.
Jay Wright: The esteemed Villanova coach also just retired at age 60. He’s one of the best coaches in the modern era. Would he come to LA? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.
Willie Green: Did no one notice the job Green did with the New Orleans Pelicans in his first year? They went from 1-12 to the playoffs, with no Zion Williamson. He’s only 40. He carries himself well. He could be the next great Lakers coach.
“Now this… would be huge.”
The Lakers have a coaching candidate in-house already completely invested in the franchise. His name is LeBron James.
The idea of a player-coach isn’t so farfetched. Bill Russell did it with the Celtics and won championships. People around the NBA already believe James is calling the shots for this team anyway. Coaching in the NBA is overrated. You either have the stars or you don’t. The Lakers can double down with James as head coach.