When Mike D’Antoni resigned as the Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, it was like a gift for the front office. The resignation saved the Lakers the embarrassment of having to fire their 2nd coach in two years or having to trot D’Antoni out as a lame duck for another season. Clearly his style had worn fans and many of the players out. The randomness of the rotations, the de-emphasis of defense, and the idea that maybe, just maybe his style caused the Lakers injuries all made D’Antoni the scapegoat for this season.
The only certainty for the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant will be on this team for the next two seasons. The Kobe-D’Antoni marriage was never perfect. The uptempo style of D’Antoni never fit into how Kobe wanted to play. While ball movement and avoiding the post were D’Antoni’s staples, Kobe wants, and needs, to play out of the post. Slow it down and work methodically. While Mike Brown’s offense was criticized (rightfully so), the slower style is more beneficial for an aging superstar.
Lakers fans may have enjoyed watching the 2013-14 squad shoot a ridiculous amount of three pointers, it didn’t translate to victories and led to some of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history. With the NBA Draft and Free Agency on the horizon, the Lakers will be able to mold their team to fit whatever coach is chosen to lead this team in the future. The most important aspect of a new coach being brought in is a new culture being instilled in the team.
D’Antoni was never truly able to get everyone to buy into what he was selling. Steve Nash was supposed to help ease the transition and show the others just how devastating D’Antoni’s offense could be if executed correctly. But Nash hasn’t been healthy during his time with the Lakers. With Gasol and Dwight, the Lakers couldn’t run the system D’Antoni wanted without alienating one of his All-Star big men. He ended up losing both. The new coach needs to have the respect of the team and the ear of Kobe Bryant.
With these criteria, what will the ideal new coach possess? First off, they need to have an impressive resume. Having the weight behind having won an NBA or NCAA title as a head coach or assistant, would be a good start. Secondly, this coach needs to understand and have a willingness to commit to defense. Think of great defensive teams in the NBA – the Heat, the Spurs, the Pacers, the Clippers – all have coaches who have instilled a culture of emphasis on defense. Lastly, the coach must be able to leave his imprint on the organization. The last Lakers’ coach who was able to do that was Phil Jackson, and the Lakers experienced unbelievable levels of success under his guidance.
The past few years have seen the Lakers wildly try to find something that works. Mike Brown wasn’t the best candidate when chosen and neither was D’Antoni. This year the Lakers need to stop going with whichever way the wind blows. How many team’s are able to win championships when coaches don’t last more than a couple seasons? Stability and leadership are lacking in the Lakers. This head coaching search is a chance for the Lakers to make some real progress.