This off-season saw not one, but two blockbuster moves from the Los Angeles Lakers who put together an All-Star cast of players by acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to join Kobe Bryant and company in Tinseltown. But with big names comes big payrolls which often leads to high expectations. The Lakers are no different so it came to the surprise of many after L.A. finished their preseason with a franchise-worst 0-8 record. And though we thought the win-less preseason was nothing more than a rough patch of exhibition games that meant nothing, little did we know that the Lakers' struggles would follow them into the regular season where they'd begin their quest for a 17th NBA title 0-3 before finally logging a win at home on Sunday against the lowly Pistons, only to lose their next game against Utah, falling to a disappointing 1-4 on the year.
The slow start coupled with an injury to Steve Nash in the team's second game would lead to many overreacting and wanting answers as to why this supreme team had yet to gel together. Wasting little time to make an adjustment, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak decided to fire head coach Mike Brown less than a season and a half into his four-year, $18 Million deal. At the time of his hiring, Rick Adelman, Jeff Van Gundy and the more obvious Brian Shaw who was thought to be Phil Jackson's successor in L.A. having served under Jackson as an assistant for several years, were all better options to coach the Lakers than Brown. But Brown's resume which included a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 and a defense-first mentality was what eventually won the Lakers front-office over and landed him the job. However, one of the reasons Brown was initially hired would also lead to his departure after.
When a team isn't playing stellar defense which just so happens to be the head coach's specialty, there's definitely a problem. And with the Lakers behind the pack in defense this season, something needed to be done. Although Brown wasn't the right guy to begin with, if you're going to stick with the guy heading into the season, you've gotta stick with him until the season ends or at the very least until mid-season if all else fails and things just aren't clicking. Instead Kupchak prematurely pulled the plug just five games into season two. To his credit, Kupchak knows the window of opportunity for this Laker team won't be open for long and is aware that losing is something this team could ill-afford with the All-Star cast of aging players that was built to win now. Something the team won't be able to do until finding a man fit for the job under the most brightest of lights.
Unfortunately, L.A.'s options will be limited as both Rick Adelman who is now the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Brian Shaw who's an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers have found work elsewhere since being turned down for the Lakers head coaching position a little over a year ago. That leaves Jeff Van Gundy who seems to have found his place as a commentator and analyst for ESPN as the only remaining option from those the Lakers had in 2011. Then of course there's the always popular thought of bringing back Phil Jackson. No matter how long he's away from the game, he's never too far from the Lakers given his longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss is the team's vice president. Jackson was rumored to have been spotted at the Lakers' practice facility this week, but there's no telling if he was visiting with the GM Kupchak to discuss the head coaching position or just paying his lady friend a visit.
Sadly, unless fly-fishing season is over and he ran dry of peyote, I don't see the Zen Master returning for a third stint to coach the Lakers in hopes of winning a 12th championship. But according to sources, the job is Jackson's to lose. If he does return to utilize the triangle offense, it'll be the first time Jackson has coached since the 2010-11 season when the Lakers were swept in the Conference Semifinals by the eventual world champion Dallas Mavericks. Though Jackson is the most popular option among Laker fans, he's not the only option in Lakerland. Mike D'Antoni who served as Steve Nash's head coach for four years in Phoenix is said to be neck and neck with Jackson as the leading candidate. But those who've seen D'Antoni coach in Phoenix know he likes to utilize the run and gun offense, something this Lakers team wouldn't be very good at given their lack of youth, something D'Antoni had plenty of during his time with the Suns.
Longtime Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillian and former Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. round out the rest of L.A.'s preferred list of possible head coaches. And while it remains unknown who will be the next coach at the helm of the Lakers, hopefully the next decision will be the right decision from Kupchak who told the media yesterday that we can expect a decision to be made sooner than later.
Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest