Calhoun at forefront of wish list
You will hear plenty in coming days about the Los Angeles Lakers potentially asking Phil Jackson to replace the man who replaced him: Rudy Tomjanovich.
Yet you are advised to file away this name: Jim Calhoun.
If the Lakers are unable to coax Jackson to return to the job he left in June -- and by all accounts Phil is target No. 1 -- league sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that L.A. will likely seek permission from UConn to contact Calhoun and gauge his interest in jumping to the NBA.
The Lakers' (and Kobe Bryant's) first choice to replace Jackson, before hiring Tomjanovich last summer, was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K elected to stay at Duke, but as one source notes: "Calhoun has beaten him the last few times they've met." Calhoun's Huskies have toppled Krzyzewski's Blue Devils on the biggest of stages -- in the 1999 NCAA championship game and in the 2004 Final Four to set up a second national title for UConn.
Of course, it should also be noted that Calhoun, 62, recently signed a six-year contract extension and has said he wants to retire with the Huskies after 19 seasons coaching them.
Early indications suggest interim coach Frank Hamblen will finish the season on the Lakers' bench, but as of Tuesday night, Tomjanovich had yet to officially leave his post.
The push to rehire Jackson will be strong and widespread, given the bitterness that's still fresh in L.A. after the breakup of a team that won three championships in a span of five seasons. Although it remains to be seen how receptive Bryant would be, and how much money Jackson would demand, Lakers owner Jerry Buss will be lobbied by someone very close to both men: his daughter Jeanie Buss, a Lakers vice president and Jackson's girlfriend.
Jackson, though, could also be courted by the New York Knicks. That job might hold more appeal, given Jackson's long career with the Knicks and the messy end to his first Lakers stint. Either way, Jackson is expected to delay any decisions about a return to coaching until the offseason.
George Karl would have been a candidate had he not joined the Denver Nuggets last week, and Lakers alumnus Byron Scott is in his first season with the New Orleans Hornets. Former Laker Michael Cooper, who coached the L.A. Sparks to consecutive WNBA titles, is available after his short stint as interim coach in Denver. And the possibility exists that the Lakers could again reach out to Miami Heat president Pat Riley or North Carolina coach Roy Williams, having spoken to both before hiring Tomjanovich.
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