- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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With Phil Jackson either exiting into retirement or simply taking a short respite, one thing seems certain -- the Los Angeles Lakers will have a new head coach next season. Jackson has been the Lakers' head coach for all but one season since being hired 12 years ago and has led the Lakers to seven NBA Finals and five championships during his tenure.
He has been the most successful Lakers coach since Pat Riley retired in 1990, and if history is any indication it's almost impossible to replace a legend. The Lakers went through six head coaches in 10 years after Riley retired, none of them winning a title, before Jackson was hired. Jackson would then lead the Lakers on a 12-year run (counting the season he didn't coach) second only to the Showtime era, which produced nine trips to the NBA Finals and five championships in 12 years.
The Lakers went outside the organization to replace Riley (Mike Dunleavy) and again when they initially replaced Jackson (Rudy Tomjanovich). It appears they will hire from within this time, with longtime Lakers player and assistant coach Brian Shaw being the front-runner. But after the way the Lakers' season ended, with an embarrassing sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round, nothing is as certain as it seemed a month ago.
Here are eight possible names on the Lakers' head-coaching wish list.
Name: Brian Shaw
Résumé: Played 14 seasons in the NBA, his last four with the Lakers, helping them win three straight championships (2000-2002). He has spent the past five seasons as Phil Jackson's right-hand man on the Lakers' coaching staff and spent half a season as Frank Hamblen's top assistant in 2004 when Rudy Tomjanovich, who was hired to replace Jackson, resigned due to health issues.
Pros: Shaw has the support of every player on the roster and would likely keep the current staff intact, keeping the continuity of a team that went to three straight NBA Finals before this season. If the Lakers want to continue running the triangle offense, they won't find a better coach than Shaw.
Cons: He has never been a head coach at any level.
Name: Rick Adelman
Résumé: The 20-year NBA head-coaching veteran has missed the playoffs only four times in his career and led the Portland Trailblazers to two NBA Finals in his first three full seasons at the helm. He nearly led the Sacramento Kings to the NBA Finals in 2002 but fell to the Lakers in Game 7.
Pros: A native of Lynwood, Calif., who starred at Loyola Marymount back when it was known as Loyola University in the late 1960s, Adelman is a player's coach who would make the coaching transition easy for this veteran-laden team despite being an outsider. He would have the respect of most of the players after being on the opposing sideline for several grueling playoff series over the years. He coached Ron Artest in Sacramento and Houston and got the most out of the mercurial forward.
Cons: His Houston Rockets missed out on the playoffs the last two years (albeit in large part due to injuries) and he hasn't made it back to the NBA Finals since 1992.
Name: Mike Krzyzewski
Résumé: He has been the head coach at Duke since 1980, leading the Blue Devils to four NCAA championships and 11 Final Fours. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and coached the U.S. men's national team to a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Pros: He was the front-runner for the job back in 2004 when the Lakers were looking for a replacement for Jackson. He seriously thought about it before deciding to stay at Duke. Krzyzewski has a close relationship with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom from their time on the U.S. national team and would instantly command the respect of everyone in the locker room.
Cons: He has never coached in the NBA and has stated he plans to remain at Duke for the rest of his coaching career.
Name: Jerry Sloan
Résumé: After coaching the Utah Jazz for 23 years, Sloan abruptly resigned last season after a reported dispute with point guard Deron Williams. Sloan led the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals and is only the fifth coach in league history to reach the 1,000-victory milestone -- and the only one to do it with one team.
Pros: If the Lakers are looking for a tough, hard-nosed coach, they don't get any more tough and hard-nosed than Sloan. He is one of the most respected coaches in the league and has already had success coaching Derek Fisher and has a good relationship with Kobe Bryant.
Cons: He seems content in retirement and doesn't appear to be the kind of coach who would be lured by coaching in a big city like Los Angeles.
Name: Larry Brown
Résumé: His 40-year coaching career has led him to 10 pro basketball teams and three college programs. He is the only coach to ever win an NBA title (Pistons, 2004) and an NCAA national championship (Kansas, 1988). He is the only coach in NBA history to lead eight different teams to the playoffs and the only one to coach two NBA teams in the same season (the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers during the 1992–93 season).
Pros: He has always found a way to get the most out of his talent, and the Lakers would probably be his most talented team on paper.
Cons: Longevity and loyalty have never been Brown's greatest traits, so unless the team is simply looking for a two-year stopgap, Brown might not be the best fit. He also missed the playoffs two of the past three seasons he coached (with the Bobcats and Knicks).
Name: Jeff Van Gundy
Résumé: In his 10 seasons as a coach with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, Van Gundy missed the playoffs only once and led the eighth-seeded Knicks all the way to the NBA Finals in 1999.
Pros: This Pat Riley disciple would bring defensive toughness to the Lakers and wouldn't stand for the miscommunication that took place on that side of the ball in the postseason.
Cons: He hasn't coached since 2007 and hasn't made it out of the first round since 2000.
Name: Kurt Rambis
Résumé: A Lakers fan favorite during his nine years on the team, he helped the Lakers win four championships. He was the Lakers' head coach during the lockout-shortened 1999 season but soon let go in favor of Phil Jackson. Rambis returned and served as Jackson's assistant coach from 2002-2009 before being named the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Pros: Rambis, who still lives in Los Angeles in the offseason, was always thought to be Jackson's successor until he left for Minnesota. No one knows the team or Jackson's system and style better than Rambis. He would be a seamless transition.
Cons: Rambis signed a four-year deal with the Timberwolves two years ago and is 32-132 in his first two seasons at the helm.
Name: Byron Scott
Résumé: One of the best players in Lakers history during his 11 seasons in Los Angeles. He was a three-time NBA champion who led the Showtime Lakers in scoring during the 1987-88 season. As a coach, he led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading the New Orleans Hornets to the Southwest Division title.
Pros: He is a Lakers legend who already has a solid relationship with Kobe Bryant after mentoring him as rookie and would command the respect of the players in the locker room.
Cons: Scott signed a four-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. He went 19-63 in Cleveland last season and was 3-6 in New Orleans before getting fired a year earlier.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
With Phil Jackson either exiting into retirement or simply taking a short respite, one thing seems certain -- the Los Angeles Lakers will have a new head coach next season.