Del Harris, the former coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets, is expected to be named coach of the Lakers, it was learned Thursday.
The Lakers might introduce Harris as Magic Johnson's successor as soon as today, according to two sources, though there does not appear to be a definite timetable and the process could last until the weekend or into next week. No news conference had been called as of Thursday night, and team spokesman John Black declined comment.
The Lakers, who failed to make the playoffs this year for only the third time since moving to Los Angeles in 1960, fired coach Randy Pfund with 18 games left in the season to let Magic Johnson coach the team.
Assistant Bill Bertka filled in for two games during the transition, then Johnson took over for the rest of the season. Johnson said he took the job on a trial basis and decided not to return as coach.
Prime Ticket's "Press Box" reported that Harris had agreed to a three-year contract.
Laker General Manager Jerry West has often spoken highly of Harris in the past. They are so familiar with each other that Harris said early in the search process that, should he become a candidate, any interview would be a formality because the two have been exchanging views for years.
Little is known about the Lakers' monthlong search, which is the way they prefer it. Kentucky Coach Rick Pitino is believed to have interviewed, and West reportedly also talked to Maryland's Gary Williams. Golden State's Don Nelson became the most recent rumor, but Warrior owner Jim Fitzgerald said Wednesday the Lakers had not been given or even asked permission to speak with his coach and general manager.
Harris was a finalist a year ago for the Clipper job that eventually went to Bob Weiss. He has spent much of the time since as a consultant to Sacramento owner Jim Thomas, another West friend, and is believed to have turned down a chance to be the Kings' general manager because his real desire is coaching and not the front office.
Harris announced Wednesday that he had resigned that position, "due to the fact that there has been immediate opportunity of interest presented to myself." He did not elaborate.
The stints in Milwaukee--where he was also vice president of basketball operations--and Houston resulted in a 332-341 record with seven playoff appearances in eight seasons.
The most successful run was when his 1980-81 Rockets, who finished the regular season with a 40-42 record, reached the NBA finals and lost to Boston in six games.
Harris spent four years with each team. When he left the Bucks at the end of the 1991-92 season, Mike Dunleavy quit as Laker coach to replace him.
Dunleavy was an assistant on Harris' staff in 1990.
West, surely with no idea what would transpire over the next few years, spoke highly of Harris at the press conference when Dunleavy was named coach.
"He (Dunleavy) had played for two people I greatly admire from a coaching standpoint," West had said, "and that is Don Nelson and Del Harris."
Harris' presence in Sacramento was said to be unsettling for Coach Garry St. Jean. Jerry Reynolds, Sacramento's general manager, and Harris had known each other since they were in high school together in southern Indiana.
St. Jean and Harris were assistants in Milwaukee when Nelson was the coach.
"I have a lot of respect for Del as a person and professionally," Reynolds said when he named Harris as a consultant in September. "He'll certainly be available to Jim Thomas, but I think he'll probably work more for me."
Despite the job with Sacramento, which paid about $40,000 a year, Harris continued to live in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
Times Deputy Sports Editor John Cherwa contributed to this story.