The NBA was rocked Friday when the Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown following a disappointing five-game start to the season in which the star-studded team posted just one victory. Brown had tough shoes to fill from the outset, replacing a retiring Phil Jackson — the winningest coach in NBA history — at the end of the 2011 campaign. And with a mega-talented roster that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard, expectations for Brown were sky high this year. In the wake of Brown's departure, assistant Bernie Bickerstoff will take over as interim coach, and Lakers management is hunting for a long-term steward to help right the Laker ship. Here, seven potential replacements for Brown:
1. Phil Jackson
"No one is more cut out for the job of leading this team to an NBA title than Phil Jackson," says Alex Ballentine at Bleacher Report. The Zen Master boasts an impressive resume with 11 NBA championships — five with the Lakers — and has a knack for getting feuding superstars on the same page. However, it's unclear if the Lakers really want to reach out to the 67-year-old, who has already had two coaching stints with the L.A. squad.
2. Brian Shaw
Part of the franchise's post-Jackson housecleaning in 2011 involved showing Shaw the door. The longtime assistant is a student of Jackson's vaunted triangle offense, and possesses a strong relationship with Bryant dating back to his playing days. However, after being passed over by the organization in the search to replace Jackson, Shaw reportedly left L.A. "with a bitter taste" in his mouth, says Ken Berger at NBA Insider. He's currently an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers.
3. Mike D'Antoni
D'Antoni's high-octane, "seven seconds or less" offense changed the face of the league several years ago, and many critics consider him an early frontrunner for the Lakers' coaching gig. D'Antoni is an "obvious choice," says Howard Beck at The New York Times, not just because of his history with Nash in Phoenix, but also because of his "close relationship with Bryant." Plus, the former coach of the year's "pick-and-roll-centered offense would be ideal for Nash and Howard."
4. Jerry Sloan
The longtime coach of the Utah Jazz has reportedly been "waiting in the wings," says Slam. Sloan, who, like D'Antoni, has never won a championship, could potentially turn Nash and Howard into the new John Stockton and Karl Malone with his motion-oriented offense.
5. Nate McMillan
The former coach of the Trail Blazers "emphasizes defense and prefers a slowdown, possession-oriented approach on offense," says NBA Insider's Berger. Like D'Antoni, he possesses a strong resume and an Olympic connection with Bryant and Howard. NBA analyst Jalen Rose agrees:
If the Lakers don't hire Phil Jackson or Brian Shaw, I think Nate McMillan would be the best choice. #NBA
— JALEN ROSE (@JalenRose) November 9, 2012
6. Stan Van Gundy
Pairing Van Gundy with Howard might sound unlikely considering the former coach's unceremonious ousting from Orlando last season at the behest of the big man. But earlier this week, Van Gundy reportedly told Sports Illustrated that he and Howard have been in touch during the offseason and wouldn't mind coaching the superstar center again if the situation should arise.
7. Kobe Bryant
Lakerland's favorite son could join ranks with NBA legend Bill Russell as one of just a handful of players to coach and play on a team at the same. Grantland writer Juliet Litman is apparently all for the idea, however unlikely it sounds:
KOBE BRYANT, PLAYER COACH. KOBE BRYANT, PLAYER COACH. KOBE BRYANT, PLAYER COACH. KOBE BRYANT, PLAYER COACH.
— Juliet Litman (@julietlitman) November 9, 2012