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Who Should the Lakers Hire for Their Head Coaching Vacancy?

UConn coach Kevin Ollie
It hasn't been a very fun time for Lakers' fans these past two seasons. Injuries have wracked franchise stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. An aging roster struggled to make the playoffs last year even with Dwight Howard on the roster, before they were dominated by San Antonio. A 55 loss campaign this year for the Lakers was enough for LA to say goodbye to Mike D'Antoni after his first full season. Kobe will be back next year but who will and should take over D'Antoni's role in Los Angeles? Since it is the Lakers, plenty of big names are associated with the vacancy, but this hire needs to be smart and one that will pay off in the future.

Last offseason, Boston dipped into the college ranks when the hired former Butler head coach Brad Stevens to lead their team through their new rebuilding stage. Stevens was a pretty surprising signing by the Celtics, considering Butler doesn't churn out big name coaches very often. Los Angeles could follow in a similar way as two big-name college head coaches have been associated with the Lakers' job opening. After winning his first national title in his just his second year on the job with the UConn Huskies, Kevin Ollie has quickly turned into one of the biggest names in the basketball industry. Ollie is just 41 years old at the moment, and his enthusiasm and vast knowledge of the game has helped him do good things with UConn. Throughout his short tenure with UConn, Ollie has incorporated a number of NBA elements into the collegiate game that have worked nicely for the Huskies and he is great at making quick adjustments, something the NBA game requires and something that not a lot of college head coaches have. Along with Ollie, a popular college name thrown around with the Lakers' job recently is Kentucky's John Calipari. After turning around Memphis, Calipari has come to Kentucky and turned a storied program back into a powerhouse, helped by dozens of stud recruits, who could go on to the NBA. Calipari, unlike Ollie, has already seen coaching experience at the NBA level, spending 1996-1998 with the New Jersey Nets. Things weren't a complete disaster; he did win 43 games in the 1997-1998 and made the playoffs before being ousted in the first round. What he has done at Memphis, UMass and Kentucky is extremely impressive, he has taken a team full of 19-year-olds into 3 Final Four appearances in five seasons with the Wildcats. He seems to enjoy the collegiate coaching experience; the recruiting side of things and coaching up young men. He has had a lot of great teams with a very fast-paced offense and his stock is obviously sky-high but the Lakers job might not be a great fit, they didn't respond very well to D'Antoni's fast-paced offense while he was there.

If Los Angeles doesn't want to go the college route, there are still a number of good coaches that they could hire. George Karl is one-year removed from his time with Denver, he managed to do a great job there even in a small market but I don't know how he would fit in LA. Kurt Rambis and Byron Scott have done a great job throughout their coaching careers and Jeff Van Gundy is also going to get his players to work hard. Perhaps the most intriguing name that Los Angeles could look seriously at is former Laker point guard Derek Fisher. Brooklyn made a pretty surprising move last year when they hired Jason Kidd as their head coach, just a short time after his New York Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs. It was very surprising, as the Nets spent a ton of money on vets like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko then hired an inexperienced coach to lead them. Fisher would be very much the same type of hire; it would be his first head coaching gig but he was basically a coach on the court over his time as a player.

Los Angeles Lakers' fans are dreaming of a future that includes names like LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin Love and Kobe all teaming up to form a team that makes the Heat's Big Three look downright average. That might not be very realistic, but it is a given they will make some moves this offseason, any team would after a season full of defensive collapses and injuries. Whoever they hire, it will have to be approved by Kobe, who didn't seem at all happy to be playing under D'Antoni. Although he is aging, the "Black Mamba" is still the face of the franchise and should be looking for one final championship run. Ideally, Los Angeles needs a young coach who can lead them into an uncertain future once Kobe is gone.

We haven't quite seen how the Stevens' hire has worked out for Boston, they haven't had the roster to help him have any success. And, although their season was full of struggles, Kidd has done a pretty solid job with Brooklyn. Ollie would be a much safer pick than Calipari in my mind, because he has played in the NBA and he is a clear players' coach. Fisher might be a little risky of a hire but he is already a fan favorite in LA and management already likes him. I'm a huge George Karl fan, but I just don't see him as a good fit in Los Angeles and I wonder if he even feels like he should come back to coaching. The Lakers will feel pressured to make a huge hire but they need to be smart and take their time with this hire and they shouldn't feel like hiring a less-established name is a bad thing. Ollie would not be a bad hire in my mind, but they can't go very wrong with a veteran coach like Karl, Rambis or Scott (maybe even Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau, though that seems unlikely) but they need to be patient and help him by building a younger, more capable roster.

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