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LAKERS IN TRANSITION

Next coach? He looks for the remote

The Buss family has a talent for plucking their team leaders from seemingly nowhere. The columnist offers up his list of unlikely-but-could-be-likely candidates.

May 11, 2011|BILL PLASCHKE

I think two things about the Lakers' coaching search.

First, I think they should hire Brian Shaw. He knows the system, he knows the culture, he has the rings, he commands the respect.

Second, I think there's no way they will hire Brian Shaw. He's too predictable. He's too safe. When has Jerry Buss ever been either?

The Lakers needed a fourth consecutive Finals appearance to make it impossible for the Buss family to ignore Shaw. That didn't happen. The team imploded, Shaw was a witness, the Buss family now has their excuse to do what the Buss family does.

Which is, hire another head coach out of thin air.

That's how they've done it, remember? They've hired one who used to be in their broadcast booth. They've hired one with a losing record. They've hired one months after he retired from the game with bladder cancer. They hired another one twice after he retired, including once after he ripped their best player in a book.

When it comes to hiring coaches, the Buss family seemingly strives to outsmart everyone, and it usually works, because that thin air has produced the likes of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. But then, it's also rained Rudy Tomjanovich and Randy Pfund, so the process is weird, and you never really know.

As expected, within hours of Jackson's final game Sunday, there appeared a generally accepted list of Lakers coaching candidates. The names are strong, and obvious, and most of them would probably work. They range from Doc Rivers -- hire a champion while sticking it to the Celtics, is there any better combination? -- to the likes of Shaw, Rick Adelman, Byron Scott, Jeff Van Gundy, Kurt Rambis, Larry Brown, Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Sloan.

This column is not about those guys, because in the Buss world, there is no guarantee it will be any of those guys. This column is about the candidates in the shadows, the guys waiting along the most remote Buss stops, the guys that fans could never imagine running Lakers. Given the team's history of coaching hires, sort of makes them a perfect choice, no?

Some of these names will seem like complete jokes. But then, at one time, so did the hiring of a guy named Del Harris.

Kobe Bryant, player-coach

Heck, the Lakers essentially play for him already. He's the team's leader and its conscience. Shaw would run the bench, Bryant would run the floor, and though few would want to play for him, you know the survivors would all be playing hard. Remember, Buss once attempted to name Jerry West and Pat Riley co-coaches, so don't put it past him.

Derek Fisher

He has the smarts and the savvy and, let's face it, he's going to end up coaching somewhere, so why not here? The lack of head coaching experience didn't stop Buss from hiring most of his head coaches. And at this stage in Fisher's career, it isn't exactly like the Lakers would miss his play at point guard. If nothing else, think of those timeout speeches.

Pat Riley

Heat wins this year's championship, Coach Erik Spoelstra's job is safe, big boss Riles needs a new challenge ... well? Anybody who saw Riley's raw emotion at the Jerry West statue unveiling last winter knows that, in many ways, he's never left.

Billy Donovan

I don't think Coach K would leave Duke. I'm guessing Donovan would leave Florida, and when it comes to energetic college coaches with some NBA street cred, only Coach K has more.

Nate McMillan

Upon hearing that the Lakers might make McMillan their top choice this spring, the Portland Trail Blazers immediately gave their basketball boss a new two-year deal. I find it impossible to believe that if Buss still wanted him, he couldn't figure out a way to get him. The day the Lakers are unable to steal something from Portland is the day they cease being the Lakers.

John Calipari

Imagine Pete Carroll in a silk suit. No coach understands young NBA players better than Kentucky's Calipari, who has produced nearly an entire team's worth in the last four years in Memphis and Lexington. Yes, he stunk in New Jersey, but most coaches stink in New Jersey, and that was more than 10 years ago, and he still made the playoffs in one of his three seasons there.

Maurice Cheeks

I wrote this down after watching this Oklahoma City assistant coach mediate the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant rift during the Thunder's incredible three-overtime victory over Memphis on Monday night. Cheeks was going from player to player on the sideline, counseling them out of their various whines and pouts. Wouldn't you like to see what he might be able to do with Bryant and Pau Gasol?

Duane Casey

The Clippers wanted to hire this Dallas Mavericks assistant last summer, but Donald Sterling nixed it for monetary reasons. Since then, all he's done is help lead the Mavs to one of the most impressive four-game sweeps in NBA history. If you can't beat him, make him join you.

Monty Williams

Was anybody else watching how this head coach's hands-in-the-pockets cool led New Orleans to two unexplainable victories against the Lakers in the first round? Average basketball fans had never really heard of him before then. Though I think the Lakers require a bigger name, the Buss family loves those sorts of guys.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com twitter.com/billplaschke

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