Mike D’Antoni confirmed the inevitable on Thursday by resigning as the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers
. In a national NBA news cycle that’s been dominated by the Donald Sterling controversy the Lakers were once again, briefly, the story nationally. Finishing out of the playoffs with another potential season of rebuilding upcoming, the Lakers now have to find a head coach to replace D’Antoni that can restore success in Lakerland while ushering the team into a new era. Several names have been bandied about already, with the two coaches who faced off against each other in the recent NCAA title game at the top of the list. Kevin Ollie and John Calipari seem to be the two most talked about candidates, but there will be others. The next Lakers coach will be a big decision and the franchise needs to correct the mistakes they made during the previous two hires of Mike Brown and D’Antoni. Now more than ever, it’s essential that the Lakers reclaim their place among Southern California NBA fans.
One big reason the next hire is important is the direct result of the Donald Sterling controversy. When NBA
commissioner Adam Silver made the decision to fine Sterling $2.5 million and push to force him to sell the team he not only created a big sigh of relief among Clippers fans, he also created a scenario where the Clippers
popularity could potentially explode. For the last thirty seasons under Sterling’s ownership the Clippers had been a disaster of a franchise. Poor decisions, poor luck and a bad owner created a franchise with little success, a punching bag for many nationally and an easy win for the cross-town Lakers. Prior to coming to the STAPLES Center
the Clippers played in front of sparse crowds at the Los Angeles Sports Arena
as they typically finished at the bottom of the division. In the last few years, despite Sterling, the Clippers have become a Western Conference power behind the play of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and, this season, the tutelage of Doc Rivers. This recent success has always been despite Sterling, not because of Sterling.
Now with Sterling potentially out of the picture the Clippers suddenly have reached a higher level of awareness nationally. They’ve become a feel-good story with several high profile figures being discussed as potential bidders for the franchise. These names include Magic Johnson and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Oracle Corporation founder Larry Ellison. Ellison, worth $50 billion, put in a losing bid to buy the Golden State Warriors five-years ago. Ellison has the money and some potential high-profile partners in Winfrey and David Geffen. Suddenly, should someone like Ellison buy the team, the Clippers have the potential to emerge as a much more popular franchise both in Southern California and nationally.
This brings us back to the Lakers. Due to their incredible history the Lakers will never become Los Angeles’s “other” team, but they do risk losing part of the casual fan base or emerging fans to the STAPLES Center rivals. The Clippers are a talented bunch who should contend for the foreseeable future, while the Lakers are likely to struggle again next season. For these reasons it’s essential the Lakers make the right choice in who they hire as their next head coach. Both Ollie and Calipari, if they are the top choices, are interesting options. The big question is whether or not Ollie and Calipari are the right choices to help attract potential free agents and maximize success out of the roster.
Whoever the next head coach of the Lakers is, he’ll have a big job on his hands.Chris M