Mike D’Antoni is seemingly already out the door as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Right?
Not so fast, according to USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, who reported the club could go in either direction at this point.
So will D’Antoni make it through hell and back and be around to take part in Phase Two of the rebuilding era next season? Probably not, but it does remain possible. He has one year left on his contract worth approximately $4 million, and he has the respect of the most credible basketball man in their building: general manager Mitch Kupchak.
No final decision has been made on either side — no matter how many times this storied team’s insatiable fan base has called for his head and put pressure on the team’s top basketball voice, Jim Buss, to make a change.
That is not the case, according to ESPN Los Angeles reporter Dave McMenamin, who suggests that any reports that the team is considering retaining D’Antoni are false, as sources tell him that D’Antoni will be relived of his duties at season’s end.
So who’s in?
After Kentucky lost the national championship game to Connecticut, John Calipari quickly raced to the top of coaching candidates. But Calipari quickly denied rumors he’s leaving Lexington, Ky. to head to Hollywood.
The short list includes former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach and Lakers great Byron Scott, Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, and former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, according to USA TODAY Sports.
Scott led the 1987-88 Lakers to an NBA championship and would be a fan favorite if he lands in Los Angeles. But his track record as an NBA coach isn’t too impressive. He has a losing record as coach of the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, and Cavs.
Shaw, too, is a strong coaching candidate, and has also been linked to the New York Knicks due to a connection with new president Phil Jackson. Rambis is a former Lakers player with coaching experience, not to mention a disciple of Jackson. And Hollins led Memphis deep into the playoffs before getting the axe.
The last and final piece of the coaching search will be the say Kobe Bryant has in the matter, if any. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told USA TODAY Sports Bryant won’t be consulted and “he’ll be fine” with whomever the team chooses.
“We will not consult with him. No, we won’t consult with him,” Kupchak said. “We won’t consult with him. Our decisions going forward — we’re not going to do knee-jerk stuff. …He’ll be fine. He’s got no choice. He’ll be fine. When we lose, he’ll rant and rave and be upset and be hot and won’t talk to anybody, but that’s the way it is. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”