Things have not been going well for the Los Angeles Lakers. When they hired Luke Walton to be the next head coach a few years ago, there was genuine optimism that he was the guy. He was the one that would lead the team back to glory. When he was handed LeBron James, expectations soared.
But they have since come crashing down.
With two games to go, the Lakers are 36-44 and missing out on the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, third under Walton. In his three years as the head coach of the Lakers, their win-loss record did improve. Despite all the injuries, it will even improve this season—just not enough for the Lakers to matter.
So, as the regular season comes to a close, Walton is expected to be one of the first, if not the first, to be fired. The lukewarm endorsement from team owner Jeannie Buss before she finally said she would defer to Magic Johnson regarding Walton’s future led to even more speculation.
Assuming Walton is fired, then who’s next?
Bovado.lv is offering odds on some of the most talked about candidates (as of April 7):
- Tyronn Lue +333
- Jason Kidd +350
- Luke Walton +600
- Mark Jackson +500
- Frank Vogel +700
- Kevin McHale +700
- Tom Thibodeau +700
- Juwan Howard +800
- Magic Johnson +3300
- Phil Jackson +3300
It is safe to say that Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, and Walton are not going to be the coach next year. There have been no rumors that Magic is considering it. When he tried coaching back in ’94, he wasn’t very good at it. He later admitted that it was never his dream to coach.
With how Jackson’s tenure in New York ended, even if he was interested, no one would welcome the ridicule that would come with hiring him. As for Walton, it has been three years, and the team isn’t close to being a playoff team. He’s gone.
Kevin McHale can probably be crossed off as well. He did a good (but not great) job with the Rockets, but the Lakers need someone who is going to generate some positive buzz. McHale is not going to do that.
Tom Thibodeau has a good track record and is held in high regard by many. But part of the problem in Minnesota that led to his firing was an inability to adjust to the new NBA. That style certainly isn’t going to go over well with the Lakers young roster.
Jason Kidd has made it clear that he’d like to coach the Lakers. But why would the Lakers want him? There is no reason. Frank Vogel wouldn’t be a bad choice. But it is hard to say with an certainty that he would be a good one.
That leaves Ty Lue, Mark Jackson, and Juwan Howard.
Lue has been getting a ton of great buzz due to his time with LeBron James in Cleveland and a positive endorsement from James. But how good of a coach is he? As soon as the Cavaliers lost James, the team tanked. He had a chance then to show off his coaching chops but didn’t.
Jackson got the Warriors on the right track before Steve Kerr took over and really deserves some credit for Golden State’s success. But he hasn’t coached since the Warriors let him go. He could be a good choice but might not be a great one.
Howard is familiar with James as a player and a coach. He has a relationship with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka dating back to their time at Michigan. Many think he could be the next great NBA head coach.
If the Lakers don’t sign him, someone else probably will this year.