Source: Lakers eye Mike Dunleavy

Updated: May 13, 2011, 5:43 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Los Angeles Lakers have had to replace two coaching legends in the last 20 years: Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. The only time it's worked out well, the team turned to Mike Dunleavy. They're thinking of doing the same again this time.

Dunleavy was contacted by the team this week and is said to be on the team's current "short list" to succeed Jackson, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

That list also includes former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman, who ESPN.com's Marc Stein and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported Thursday also would be a candidate for the position.

Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw has the public endorsement of Kobe Bryant and is regarded as by far the strongest in-house candidate. But a league source told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that Bryant would support the hiring of Adelman if the team decided to go in that direction.

The Lakers have scheduled interviews with Shaw and fellow Lakers assistant Chuck Person, sources told Bucher.

Dunleavy is currently awaiting judgment in his arbitration hearing with the Los Angeles Clippers, who stopped paying the balance of his contract after they fired him as general manager last year. Dunleavy earlier had resigned as coach after going 215-326 with the Clippers.

Though his recent history with the Clippers was unsuccessful, Dunleavy is still viewed as a strong tactician with an impressive history of postseason success. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1999 with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers have always thought fondly of the job he did in replacing Riley in 1990, leading the team to an upset over the Trail Blazers in the 1991 Western Conference finals before losing to Jackson's Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.

Dunleavy has maintained a friendship with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and his son, Jim Buss. As recently as last year, he watched Lakers games with Buss from his suite at Staples Center.

He also has a long history with Bryant, whom he courted and nearly convinced to join the Clippers as a free agent in 2004.

Dunleavy is the winningest and was the highest-paid coach in Clippers history. He took the franchise to within one win of the Western Conference finals in 2006.

Dunleavy has a career record of 613-716 as a head coach with the Lakers, Milwaukee, Portland and the Clippers. Besides the 1990-91 run with the Lakers, he came within one game of the 2000 Finals with the Trail Blazers before a fourth-quarter collapse in Game 7 propelled Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant to their first of three championships together with the Lakers.

The team's decision-making chain of command when it comes to choosing Jackson's replacement is Jim Buss, Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, ESPN.com's J.A. Adande reported after the Lakers were swept by Dallas Sunday.

"In that order," one source told Adande.

In his postseason sitdown with reporters Wednesday, Kupchak said: "We'd like to be deliberate. In Los Angeles, typically we hire coaches and they stick with us for a long time and hopefully win championships. So we'll take our time in making that decision."

Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher and veteran forward Luke Walton have joined Bryant in registering support for Shaw, but it remains to be seen if the Busses are prepared to replace the most successful coach in history with a first-time NBA head coach.

Shaw previously has been given permission to interview for the Rockets vacancy. League sources told Bucher that Shaw and Person have been granted permission to interview for the Golden State Warriors position.

Adelman, 64, has never won a championship and is best remembered in Lakerland as coach of the Sacramento team that took a 3-2 series lead over L.A. in the heated and controversial 2002 Western Conference finals before the Kings lost in seven games.

But his reputation as a players' coach with a pleasing-to-the-eye offense would appear to make him a better fit than other top veteran coaches available -- such as Jeff Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan or Larry Brown -- because of the Buss family's well-known fondness for entertaining basketball.

In four seasons with the injury-plagued Rockets, Adelman posted a record of 193-135 for a .588 winning percentage and helped Houston extend the Lakers to seven games in the second round of the 2009 playoffs despite the absence of Yao Ming for most of the series.

Adelman's career record is 945-616, which puts him eighth in all-time victories and includes two trips to the NBA Finals with Portland, as well as one unsuccessful stint with Golden State between his jobs with the Blazers and Kings.

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.

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