Writing in the New York Times columnist Eric Pincus wrote a compelling piece on whether the Lakers could target University of Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie as a potential replacement for Mike D’Antoni. With the Lakers mired at the bottom of the Western Conference and at least another year of rebuilding ahead of them, should the Lakers make a move for Ollie?
Mike D’Antoni is a lame duck coach. Even if he does coach the Lakers next season, it’s hard to imagine D’Antoni keeping his job beyond next season. The Lakers have battled injuries all season, but have also shown the negative characteristics of previous D’Antoni coached teams, mainly the inability to play defence. With a high draft pick in the coming draft, the Lakers may choose to move on a candidate like Ollie to inject some life into the franchise and maximize the Lakers upcoming draft pick. The former Connecticut star and now head coach is from Los Angeles, playing his high school basketball at Crenshaw High School. In just two seasons in Connecticut, he’s capably replaced a legend in Jim Calhoun and has the Huskies playing for yet another National Title on Monday night versus the Kentucky Wildcats.
Ollie is compelling not because of his coaching resume, which is impressive albeit with limited head coaching experience. What makes Ollie compelling is his reputation around the league, especially from current Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. As Pincus pointed, out Ollie received major accolades from Durant during a recent interview with Bill Simmons. Durant called Ollie at “game-changer” for his impact on the culture of Oklahoma City during their evolution as a contender in the west. It’s a big stretch to think that the presence of Ollie would draw Durant to Los Angeles but is indicative of Ollie’s reputation around the league. Durant pointed to the mindset and professionalism that Ollie brought to the Thunder organization each day.
Would Ollie take the job? Considering his instant success at Connecticut it’s questionable why he would leave the college ranks, but a factor that may impact a decision by Ollie to go could be Connecticut’s conference situation. The Huskies ended up lost in the shuffle of the conference realignments over the past two seasons and now find themselves in the American Athletic Conference, a far cry from the former Big East they were a member of for over two decades. The American Athletic is far less prestigious than the old Big East and the ACC and could impact Ollie’s decision to stay at Connecticut.
If the Lakers were to attract Ollie it doesn’t guarantee they make a run for Durant but it would satisfy the fan base and potentially usher the Lakers into a new era. A solid draft pick in the offseason and the acquisition of Kevin Love after next season can do wonders for the Lakers near-term outlook. How a franchise is perceived nationally can have a major impact on potential free agents, for example look at the LA Clippers and their decision to replace Vinny Del Negro with Doc Rivers. The presence of Rivers immediately upped the prestige of the Clippers organization and made them a desirable target for a player like Danny Granger when he was amnestied this spring. Ollie can have a similar impact as Rivers with the Lakers. Chris M.