The Los Angeles Lakers could very well be looking for a new head coach to replace Frank Vogel at some point soon.
Los Angeles sits at a mere 13-13 on the season and just dropped a game against the Ja Morant-less Memphis Grizzlies. They are a shell of the team that won the NBA championship in the Orlando Bubble to conclude the 2019-20 season.
With LeBron James acting as a power broker in Southern California, he might push the Lakers into making a move either in-season or following the 2021-22 campaign. If so, here’s a look at five ideal early candidates.
Los Angeles Lakers promote David Fizdale
Back in November of 2017, LeBron James criticized the Memphis Grizzlies’ decision to fire head coach David Fizdale early in the season. James ended up using the term “fall guy” as a way to describe the move. Fast forward four years, and the respected coach is a top assistant under Vogel in Southern California.
Obviously, King James has some sway when it comes to the Lakers’ decision-making process. That became clear when Fizdale replaced Jason Kidd as Los Angeles’ top assistant when the latter left to become the Dallas’ Mavericks head coach. As for Fizdale, he’s posted a 71-134 record as a head coach in stints with the Grizzlies and New York Knicks. Will that be enough to turn the Lakers’ brass off?
Los Angeles Lakers hire Kenny Atkinson
Considered one of the better developmental coaches in the NBA, it’s an open question whether Atkinson would be a great hire for a veteran-laden squad like the Lakers. What we do know is that the current Golden State Warriors assistant is widely respected around Association circles. He also had some success in turning a then-dormant Brooklyn Nets squad into a playoff team before surprisingly getting ousted following the 2019-20 season.
With a focus on defense and developing, an argument could be made that Atkinson makes sense in Los Angeles. He could bring in a top-end assistant to help hold down the fort as the Lakers toe the line between short-term contention and long-term relevance.
Los Angeles Lakers hire Steve Clifford
Clifford would be an ideal hire for the Lakers in that he’s better suited coaching an experienced roster. With north of 20 years experience on an NBA bench and eight as a head coach, it would be a smooth transition for the Southern California team.
Clifford, 61, led the Charlotte Hornets to two playoff appearances in five seasons before helping the Orlando Magic to the postseason in each of his first two years in Florida. He has respect around the league, which is needed when it comes to coaching big egos such as Mr. James and Anthony Davis.
Los Angeles Lakers hire Sam Cassell
It shouldn’t be too long before Sam Cassell nets a head-coaching job. He’s been an assistant for 13 years and starred on the court for another 15 seasons. That’s north of a quarter-century of experience in the NBA.
Most recently, Cassell was a finalist for the Los Angeles Clippers’ job before they settled on Tyronn Lue to head the ship. He’s currently an assistant under Doc Rivers in Philadelphia and is seen as a player-friendly coach. It almost makes too much sense.
Los Angeles Lakers hire Becky Hammon
Speaking of King James, he has a great relationship with legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Pop first took a chance on Hammon as an assistant back in 2014 and has been rewarded for it big time. She’s long been considered one of the top head-coaching candidates in the NBA and could ultimately replace Popovich in San Antonio once he retires.
The only real question here is market. Would Hammon be willing to break the grass ceiling while existing in what could end up being a hostile environment if struggles were to be the name of the game? It’s a question that she seriously has to be thinking about. Whether this is a great fit for either side remains to be seen.