Featuring four sure-fire Hall-of-Famers, the Los Angeles Lakers
flamed out and ended up not living up to the expectations.
Unfortunately, the additions of Karl Malone and Gary Payton just
weren’t enough to get it done.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal joined forces with the legends
during the 2003-04 season, and sought to win a fourth title in five
years, but the Lakers ultimately fell short against Larry Brown and
his Detroit Pistons in what was one of the biggest NBA Finals
upsets in history.
You know how they say history always repeats itself? It’s true.
So it should come as no surprise to recall that the ensuing
offseason, the Lakers found themselves looking for a new head
coach. The search led to Mike Krzyzewski’s living room.
Coach K would famously turn down a five-year, $40 million offer
from the Lakers, which would have amounted to an annual salary
raise of about 700%.
After a lost season, the Lakers (and Kobe) would eventually
patch things up with Phil Jackson, and Bryant would lead the Lakers
to two more championships in 2009 and 2010.
Unfortunately for Frank Vogel, that bit of history doesn’t seem
likely to repeat itself.
Now, in 2022, the Lakers find themselves on the lookout for a
new head coach to lead their locker room. Let's take a look at five
candidates who may fit the bill.
Before his February confrontation with Wisconsin head
coach Greg Gard, Juwan Howard’s name was mostly mentioned in
the press for the right reasons.
Since taking over for the Michigan Wolverines in 2019, Howard
helped the university maintain its status as one of the premier
basketball programs in the country — his Wolverines have reached
the Sweet Sixteen in 2019 and 2022, as well as the Elite Eight in
Although it would be difficult to pull Howard from his alma
mater, especially when he’s enjoyed success thus far, the Lakers
head coach job wouldn’t be an easy one for a toiling coach to turn
down. Despite all the Lakers have been through, it remains a dream
job for many in the profession. Aside from that, Howard’s
connections to both Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and LeBron
James is hard to ignore.
Pelinka and Howard were teammates at Michigan for Howard’s three
seasons there, and although Howard and James' paths diverged, those
two would eventually unite in Miami. They played three years
together as teammates before Howard retired and immediately moved
into an assistant coach role, the first of which coincided with
LeBron’s final season in Miami.
Howard spent the next five years alongside Heat head coach Erik
Spoelstra before being tapped to assume the helm at Michigan.
Whoever the Lakers entrust with the tall task of getting them
back on track, it would make sense that the candidate would need to
have exhibited some level of success and also be able to earn the
confidence of both Pelinka and James. It should also be noted that,
in 2019, Howard was granted an interview for the Lakers’ head coach
opening. The job, obviously, eventually went to Vogel.
Although Howard has been vocal in his love for his alma mater,
he would appear to check the boxes. At a minimum, among the sea of
potential candidates, he is one who should be watched closely.
Now in his eighth season with the Utah Jazz, Quin Snyder has
overseen the organization's ascension after the departure of
mainstay Jerry Sloan and three less-than-stellar years under Tyrone
Although thanks in large part to the presence of Rudy Gobert,
under Snyder’s leadership, the Jazz have consistently ranked as one
of the league’s top-five defenses. His staff has also assisted the
development and thriving of a number of young players who have
found their way in the league.
As it stands, Utah is much closer to contention than the Lakers,
but the Jazz themselves haven’t exactly been trending upward. There
has been consistent speculation as to whether Donovan Mitchell is
destined to become the next superstar who lands on the
trading block, and according to veteran scribe Marc Stein,
Snyder and his representatives have rebuffed Utah’s attempts to
extend his current contract.
If Snyder did sense that — as often reported — the marriage
between Mitchell and Gobert wasn’t one that would continue for the
long term, he could be proactive about a fresh start elsewhere.
During the 2011-12 season, Snyder served as an assistant coach
in Los Angeles under Mike Brown. At a minimum, he’s no stranger to
To this day, there are many who wonder if the Golden State
Warriors could have fulfilled their dynastic potential if Mark
Jackson remained coach. That’s probably why there’s a fair amount
of people still hoping that one of the greatest point guards in NBA
history gets another shot to lead an NBA team. There is another
faction, however, that believes the Warriors may have actually been
held back by their former coach.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
What can’t be argued, however, is that in his three seasons in
Golden State, Jackson led the Warriors to a 121-109 record and
brought the team to consecutive postseason berths for the first
time in over 20 years. He at least helped to lay the foundation of
the team’s championship trajectory.
It’s also worth noting that LeBron has long been an advocate for
Jackson. That may have something to do with the fact that Jackson —
like LeBron and Anthony Davis — is represented by Klutch Sports, or
it could be that LeBron just believes that he can coach.
Back in 2014, James reportedly pushed for Jackson as a candidate
before the Cavs opted for Tyronn Lue to replace David Blatt, and
according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, James could make a similar
appeal on Jackson’s behalf this time around. If he did, it could be
If the Lakers are looking to make a splash, John Calipari would
seem to fit the bill.
It’s been more than 20 years since Coach Cal was head coach of
an NBA team, but for the past 13 years, he’s served as head coach
for the Kentucky Wildcats — arguably the bluest of the blue-blood
collegiate basketball programs. He led the Wildcats to the National
Championship in 2012, and in that season, managed to unlock the
potential of a talented freshman in Davis.
In all, Coach Cal has coached his teams to six Final Four
appearances and has previously been linked to NBA openings,
including with the New York Knicks.
The difficulty with pursuing collegiate coaches at big-time
programs is stature. At the collegiate level, coaches are kings of
their programs, particularly those with national championships and
a track record of helping young players get to the NBA. In that
regard, Calipari’s record is unmatched.
According to CoachCal.com, Calipari is the only coach to have
coached four No. 1 overall selections (Derrick Rose, John Wall,
Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns) and the only coach to have five
first-round selections in the same NBA Draft (2010).
In 2012, he also became the first coach to have two of his
players go first and second in the draft. That year, Davis and
teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took that honor.
Cal probably knows that he can coach for as long as he wants to
at Kentucky, just like Krzyzewski. But a 2021 report from Yahoo
Sports cited Cal’s believed ambition and wanting to prove that he
can succeed at the NBA level as the thing that could push him back
to the NBA.
That, and, of course, the right opportunity.
It’s hard to argue with Nick Nurse’s success, and it’s easy to
see why a team like the Lakers could be interested. Nurse has
earned a reputation for unorthodox methods and game planning, but
it’s impossible to argue with the success he’s enjoyed as the head
coach of the Toronto Raptors.
One of the biggest challenges that the Lakers face is with
respect to its roster construction. If Russell Westbrook is to
remain with the team, the franchise will need a coach who is
capable of thinking outside the box and implementing systems and
rotations that can maximize pieces that may not necessarily be an
It could be argued that these have been the hallmarks of his
tenure in Toronto. That and, of course, winning. That may end up
being the biggest obstacle for the Lakers if Nurse truly is the
As the head coach who finally got Toronto over the hump, Nurse
is beloved by the franchise, and the Raptors certainly seems to
have more going for them than the Lakers do right now. Not the
least of which is organizational leadership, which has proven to be
competent and capable of developing players who can achieve at the
Leaving the Raptors for the Lakers in that regard would be a
leap of faith for Nurse. Hailing from Iowa, Nurse isn’t a
natural-born Canadian, but he is currently serving as the head
coach of the Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team.
While that role wouldn’t prevent him from making a jump to Los
Angeles, it at least suggests a commitment to something bigger than
simply being a coach. In the end, it may be a lot for the Lakers to
overcome, especially since the Raptors’ ownership group has
demonstrated it has deep pockets.
Nonetheless, it is possible that Nurse could view an opportunity
to coach the Lakers as the one he has spent his entire career
working toward. Having led the Raptors to a championship —
similarly to Kawhi Leonard — he could perhaps be enthused about a
Unfortunately for the community, we’ve seen head coaches in the
NBA become increasingly disposable. Just two years after leading
the Los Angeles Lakers to its 17th championship in franchise
history, Vogel was fired, and rather unceremoniously, at that.
If the Lakers are to win an 18th championship, it will be under
Maybe one of the aforementioned five could be the answer.