Phil Jackson had the Midas touch when it came to dealing with superstars… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Do the Lakers try to find a copycat coach to replace Phil Jackson, or someone completely different in personality and coaching style? Or hire someone who is a composite of both?
Now that Jackson has retired, it leaves the Lakers with giant shoes to fill as they search for the right candidate to replace the winningest coach in NBA history.
"I don't envy the person that has to fill those shoes. That's for sure," said Steve Kerr, who played for Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and is now a TNT basketball analyst working the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago.
Jackson performed his annual team exorcism before the Lakers began the 2011 playoffs, lighting a bundle of sage that he took throughout the team's facility, doing it to get rid of bad spirits and to cleanse whatever ailed the team during the regular season.
He had group meditation sessions. He had his video coordinators insert clips from movies as motivation and encouraged his players to take note of the meanings. He wasn't afraid to zing his players in the press, using the media as another coaching tool.
This was the Jackson way in coaching the Lakers, the methods he used here and with the Bulls to win 11 NBA championships.
"Nobody can emulate Phil and try and do that stuff," said Kerr, who was also a general manager with the Phoenix Suns. "You have to move beyond that.
"I do think that the [new Lakers] coach will have one dynamic on his side, which is the failure of this year. I think the players to a man will come back and they will have a chip on their shoulders that was lacking this year."
The new coach also will be under a lot of pressure. The Lakers and their fans are all about winning championships – now!
The current group of Lakers reached the NBA Finals three consecutive times and won championships in 2009 and 2010. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have won five titles, all under Jackson.
"If you bring in a veteran coach who hasn't won a championship and things start to go wrong [next season], you're going to have guys that question whether he can take them to a championship," said former Laker Rick Fox, who won three titles playing for Jackson.
In a survey of ex-players, NBA scouts and various league officials, all agreed it won't be an easy task to take over the Lakers. But here are some of the things that should be considered when the next coach is hired:
? A self-confident coach to help fill the enormous void left by Jackson. "It has to be somebody with a pretty good belief in himself," Kerr said.
? He has to command respect in the Lakers' locker room. "That may mean staying in-house with somebody that the players are familiar with like [Lakers assistant coach] Brian Shaw, or maybe it means going out and getting somebody with experience like Rick Adelman," Kerr said.
? He must deal with a strong-willed superstar in Bryant.
"The Kobe factor is very important," Fox said. "[Kobe] has had a lot of success doing things a certain way. How does a new coach deal with that? That's why I think B Shaw would be great for that job, because he knows Kobe better than anybody."
? He should use a familiar offensive and defensive system.
"It's just my opinion, but Brian Shaw has been under the tutelage of Phil for six years, so he has learned everything there is to know about that system," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said. "And I don't think those guys are at the point in their career where they are really interested in learning a whole new system. I think Rick Adelman would be great too because he's a non-controversial, out-of-the-spotlight kind of guy."
? Having played in the NBA is also a big plus.
"I liked playing for coaches who played before in the NBA," said former Laker Robert Horry, who won three of his seven championship rings with the team. "They understood and realized that frustrating times happen and they move on. You can curse me out and I can curse you out and you let it go. You then go to fight together."
? One NBA personnel executive said Jackson's successor must have the skills for dealing with the modern game, including using more statistical analysis and various basketball metrics to better evaluate players.
? The next coach must have the experience of the old but yet be able to embrace the new, including using social media — Twitter, Facebook and texting — to communicate with players.
? The new coach will probably call more timeouts than Jackson. "That's a pretty safe bet," Kerr said, laughing. "Although he called a lot of them in that Dallas series."
? Other job requirements: dealing with a large media contingent, playoff experience and assembling a great staff.
"Look, it's not easy to replace somebody like a Phil Jackson," Horry said. "But somebody has to do it. I wish them good luck."