By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Nov 10, 2012 11:42 PM
The Los Angeles Lakers plan to speak with former Knicks and Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni and former Lakers, Blazers, Bucks and Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy about their head coaching job in the coming days, according to a league source.
Those upcoming discussions will follow Saturday's meeting between Lakers officials and Phil Jackson, in which the two sides discussed the job but no official offer was made. "There is nothing to report," said a source involved with the discussions Saturday. Jackson, though, remains the overwhelming favorite to take over early next week. The 11-time champion, who won five of those rings in two stints with the Lakers, has the enthusiastic support of all of the team's star players, including Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who took over Friday after the Lakers fired former coach Mike Brown, will coach Sunday's home game against Sacramento.
The Lakers next play at home Tuesday against San Antonio, but then have two days off before their next game, next Friday, at Staples Center against the Suns. Not making a hire until after the Spurs game would give the next head coach two days of practice before debuting against Phoenix, and give them a chance to interview other candidates. It is not believed that the Lakers have contacted former assistant coach and player Brian Shaw, who was Jackson's and Bryant's choice to succeed Jackson after Jackson's final season with the team in 2011. Shaw is now the associate head coach of the Pacers.
Former Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan told USA Today Saturday that he had not been contacted by the Lakers.
D'Antoni's camp was resigned earlier Saturday to the idea that Jackson would be the next head coach. The Lakers didn't contact D'Antoni throughout the day while interviewing Jackson. The Los Angeles Times reported that executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak met with Jackson.
Jackson's longtime agents, Todd and Brian Musburger, said in June that Jackson was looking for a deal similar to the one that Pat Riley has in Miami if he were to return to the game. At the time, they said Jackson's inclination was not to return to coaching, but to seek a job where he would pick a coach and work with that coach and his staff. In Los Angeles, Jim Buss has the final say on basketball-related matters. But Buss did not have a very good relationship with Jackson, and after he left the team got rid of almost all of the people that had had any association with Jackson. Jim Buss chose Mike Brown to replace Jackson instead of other candidates like Rick Adelman, who subsequently took the head job with the Timberwolves.
Jackson, according to a source who knows him well, is in good shape after having a knee replacement last March. The likelihood is that if Jackson returns to coach, he'd want to bring back many of his longtime assistants, including Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Kurt Rambis. Most observers around the league think it would be easy for the team's current personnel that weren't in Los Angeles when Jackson last coached the Lakers to pick up the triangle offense Jackson has used since his days in Chicago in the 1990s. The offense would be especially good for Howard, who could thrive in the low post the same way Shaquille O'Neal did when the Lakers won three straight titles from 2001 through 2003.
D'Antoni, who resigned as head coach of the Knicks in March, is obviously familiar to Nash, who won back-to-back league MVP honors playing in D'Antoni's system in Phoenix. D'Antoni is also quite familiar with Bryant, whom he first met while he played--and Bryant lived--in Italy, and then coached as an assistant on the U.S. Olympic teams that won the gold medal in 2008 and 2012.
Dunleavy started his head coaching career with the Lakers, making the Finals in 1991 before losing to the Bulls in six games, before moving on to the Bucks, Blazers and Clippers. He last coached in 2010, getting fired with a 21-28 record with the Clippers. He put together a group that tried to buy the New Orleans Hornets and was thought to be the favorite before the team was sold by the NBA to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.
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