Lakers News and Rumors: Will Los Angeles Fire Mike D'Antoni? These Five NBA Coaches Could Replace Him
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It doesn't get any easier for anyone rooting or working for the Los Angeles Lakers these days - particularly if you're head coach Mike D'Antoni.
With his team firmly in the cellar of the Pacific Division with a horrid 23-46 record as of Tuesday, one of the worst in the NBA this season, the Lakers' season is all but over with stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash out for the season. And so, too, it would seem, may be D'Antoni's two-year tenure with the Lakers. Over the last few weeks and months as the Lakers continue their slide down the rankings, news and rumors of D'Antoni's impending firing have been running rampant in the headlines.
To be fair, D'Antoni walked into a minefield right from the start. The team of Dwight Howard, Nash, Bryant and the often-injured Pau Gasol, assembled two summers ago to bring the Lakers another NBA title was poorly conceived and simply couldn't mesh on the court. With the exception of Nash, none of those big stars had any experience in playing under D'Antoni's fast-break, run-heavy offense; simply put, they were the wrong players for his style of coaching. Plus, as Nash recently put it, there was one unforgivable flaw that most Lakers fans simply couldn't tolerate about D'Antoni:
"His biggest fault in many ways is that he's not Phil [Jackson]."
Indeed, it's a hard act to follow when you're living in the shadow of one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, one that guided the Lakers to five world titles over the last decade. But in a town like L.A., where they've been used to the images of Kobe, Shaq, Kareem, and Magic, with Pat Riley leading the team to glory and prestige, there's simply no room for anything less than first place. However, that's not to say that D'Antoni has been without his faults. His offense and his methods over his last two stints as coach in New York and L.A. have bred as many enemies as they have friends. While his offense in New York made Jeremy Lin a star, it also alienated him from Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony. And in L.A., Howard found D'Antoni's style of play to be grating,
1. Jeff Van Gundy
He knows how to win, and he's done it on a market equally as big and as demanding as Los Angeles. To this day, New York Knicks fans still respect the job that Van Gundy did for five years as head coach, leading the team to some of the most memorable playoff battles in the franchise's history, including a 1999 NBA Finals appearance. Smart, chippy and with an emphasis on defense, Van Gundy seems like a great fit out in Los Angeles, assuming he wants to re-immerse himself into the grind of an NBA coaching job.
2. George Karl
Karl has experience in spades in working with winning teams. Behind the sidelines for the former Seattle Supersonics, he guided the franchise to the 1996 NBA Finals and several strong winning seasons. In Denver, where he won the 2012-2013 NBA Coach of the Year award last season - before being shockingly fired at the conclusion of the season. he took a talented, but young and untested Nuggets team to the No.3 seed in the West. While he fell short of making any significant noise in the playoffs, he has also shown that he can balance talented rosters with explosive or big personalities - an asset when it comes to dealing with the hotbed of controversy that is the Lakers' locker room.
3. Jerry Sloan
Few coaches have been around as long or command as much respect as Sloan, the longtime coach of the Utah Jazz, having amassed a lifetime 1,221-803 coaching record, making him one of the most successful coaches in NBA history. He had two back-to-back NBA Finals appearances with the Jazz under his belt, but ultimately ended things with the Jazz following a reported clash between himself and ex-Utah star Deron Williams. Sloan certainly has the pedigree for Los Angeles, but the key will be whether or not he can get along with Kobe and whatever new big name player that the Lakers decide to go after in free agency.
4. Lionel Hollins
Hollins made a nice rep for himself with the Memphis Grizzlies, turning a rough-around-the-edges team into a defensive powerhouse that reached the Western Conference Finals last season. With the right team around him and support from management, Hollins could be the one to turn things around on the sidelines for the Lakers. The problem, however, lies in the unknowns that will comprise the team as the Lakers rebuild. Kobe can be very productive under any system, but going from an offensive-heavy system light on defense (D'Antoni) to a potentially defensive-oriented system short on offense (Hollins) may not be the championship formula for the Lakers, either.
5. Vinny Del Negro
Del Negro led the L.A. Clippers to much success over the last two seasons. Unfortunately for Del Negro, his reportedly unpopular stance with the players and some questionable decisions made during the Clippers' playoff run last season cost him his job. Del Negro is obviously a very capable coach, but he'll need to win over the locker room, especially Kobe, to even have a shot at succeeding in L.A., or he'll get eaten alive.
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