These playoffs have been fantastic. They’ve been rich with intrigue and ripe with story lines to cover and angles to dissect; both on and off the hardwood. While I was watching one of the duller, early parts of the game between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, an interesting bit of text popped up on my iPad.
Mike D'Antoni has resigned as Lakers coach, source tells ESPN
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 1, 2014
Mike D’Antoni had not been fired, he had decided to resign as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers after two years as the bench boss.
D’Antoni was about to enter the final year of a three-year contract, with a fourth-year team option that paid him $4 million annually. ((ESPN article when D’Antoni was hired – here)) Being a lame duck coach wasn’t an option for D’Antoni1 and he decided to resign, leaving the $4 million on the table.2
During his almost two-year stint in the land of 1,000 non-existent lakes, D’Antoni went 67-87 as head coach of the Lakers and created an offense that was ranked eighth in points scored per 100 possessions in 2012-13, but fell to twentieth ((with less talent)) in 2013-14.
While surprising in the moment, this isn’t an unheard of decision by a head coach. Being a lame duck coach only undermines your authority with players; especially when one of those players is the commanding Kobe Bryant. Once GM Mitch Kupchak informed D’Antoni that the fourth-year option would not be exercised at this time, it was likely an easy decision for D’Antoni to walk away rather than work on a one-year contract.
Now that D’Antoni has decided to step down; who are the most likely suitors for the Lakers head coaching gig? Well, if you believe Twitter, then Byron Scott is making a public push for the job.
— Jaime Maggio (@jaimemaggio) May 1, 2014
Some people believe that choosing Byron Scott would be an attempt to lure Kyrie Irving to the Lakers. Really though, do you believe that helping Irving go 45-103 in his first two years is going to endear Scott to Irving so much that the star point guard would want to choose Los Angeles in free agency purely so they could reunite? Hiring Scott would be a worse decision than the decision to hire D’Antoni over Phil Jackson in the first place. Let’s move on.
As was reported just before the NCAA National Championship game, John Calipari is an intriguing name. Don’t forget that Rex Chapman, former UK basketball player and professional journeyman in the NBA, reported that Calipari would be heading to L.A. no matter how the championship played out.
— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) April 7, 2014
This would certainly be a roundabout way to get to the destination, but the Lakers are rarely looking to bring in anything but a big splash of coach. A “players first”3 type of coach would be interesting in a free agent hot bed like L.A., but the delayed nature of this situation makes me think Calipari is not the next leader of the purple and yellow.
A candidate Lakers management and Kobe Bryant share a fondness: Euro legend Ettore Messina. He impressed as assistant under Mike Brown.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 1, 2014
That would certainly make a splash. But, much more for a “WHO?” type reaction than for genuine excitement. That isn’t to say Ettore Messina wouldn’t deserve the chance, much like Marc Trestman coming from the Canadian Football League to the NFL.
Messina is currently the head coach of CSKA Moscow, where he won two Euroleague titles in a previous stint with the team from 2005-2009.
Messina’s lone foray into the NBA came with the Lakers as a part of Mike Brown’s coaching staff. It has been reported that Messina is a more hard line coach than a “players first” type, like D’Antoni was.4
If only these two names were the only two being considered, I would love to see Messina get a chance in the NBA, if only to do away with the other recycled names that are coming up in the early goings of the Lakers’ coaching search.
Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, Steve Kerr, Kevin Ollie are all potential candidates for LA's head coaching vacancy.
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) May 1, 2014