For Lakers – Coach “Right” or “Right Now”?

With the Lakers in a coaching search after the abrupt dismissal of Mike Brown just 5 games into the new season, they don’t necessarily want to get the best coach available.  If they’re going to salvage this season, it’s important that the coach they hire be able to work with the team as it exists now.  Since it’s almost guaranteed that the newly installed Princeton Offense will bear the brunt, along with Coach Brown, of the Lakers’ woes, it’s going to be necessary to get a coach for this season who can run a system that the existing team can learn in a very short time.  Otherwise, the Lakers will be out of the playoff race before a new system sinks in. 

This means that some names thrown out as great next choices, both Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy for example, are most likely not the best coaches to take over the team right now.  There’s been little interaction between JVG and the current Lakers roster and a famous interaction (Dwight Howard) between SVG and the current team.  If the Lakers are to save this season, neither JVG nor SVG is the best fit at this time.  Plus, the Lakers hiring Jackson-antagonist JVG would be seen by many as a sure sign that the Mayans were right.  Panic would ensue.

My personal choice for a new offense, once it was known that Steve Nash would sign with the team, would have been Mike D’Antoni’s Seven Second or Less (not his name for it) offense.  My thinking was that instead of having all players learn the Princeton offense, have half the team learn SSOL and the other half get a refresher.  In addition, PG Nash has been playing SSOL for the past 8 seasons and won 2 NBA MVP awards doing so.  Why make him learn a new offense if you don’t have to?

But since SSOL wasn’t installed, bringing in D’Antoni right now to coach isn’t ideal.  Yes, SSOL has been used by the Olympic team and the Lakers have a handful of Olympians on their roster.  But one of those, Gasol, both starts for the Lakers and plays for Spain in the Olympics.  He has no experience with it.  If the Lakers’ first choice doesn’t work out, MDA is probably a good second choice, even though about half the team hasn’t played SSOL before and half of the Olympians haven’t played it in years.

This leaves us with current top choice Phil Jackson.  With Jackson’s resume, he’s the obvious choice for Coach “Right”.  But with at least 5 of the current roster having played the Triangle two years ago under Jackson (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, and Devin Ewbanks) and Steve Nash still out while recovering from a leg fracture, the idea of shaking off the rust instead of having to learn an entirely new system may win the day.  And while Nash hasn’t played the Triangle before, he’s defended against it for most of his career.  With proper guidance, former-MVP Nash could be well on his way to mastery of it before the end of 2012. 

Not only is Phil Jackson Coach “Right”, he’s probably also Coach “Right Now”.  And it’s likely, after working out the details, that Jackson will be coaching the Lakers again soon. 

This brings us to two other areas: what to do with the roster and how to learn, or remember, the Triangle most quickly.

Roster-wise, any changes need to be less about getting rid of players and more about bringing in certain players.  Whether it’s Jackson or D’Antoni who’s hired, the Lakers need to have as many players who know their respective systems as possible.  Focusing on Jackson as the most likely hire, bringing back Derek Fisher to provide early backup while Nash heals and to provide season-long coaching to Nash to get him up to speed as fast as possible makes sense.  I’m sure the Lakers and other knowledgable NBA writers/bloggers will have some good suggestions as well.

As far as learning, or re-learning, the Triangle as quickly as possible, there are two things that can be used even before Phil actually runs a practice: old game film and visualization.  And if they’re used in combination, so much the better.

The old game film will be useful to the 5 current Lakers who already played in the Triangle for Phil and as an example to the other Lakers who’ve never run in the system before.  And visualizing themselves playing in the system, as explained in the “5 Steps to Faster Sports Mastery“, will help all of the Lakers, even the injured ones, learn or remember their roles in the offense much more quickly.

Only time will tell if the Lakers and Phil Jackson get a deal done.  Will the money be right?  Will the perks be enough?  Will the Lakers, in light of Colorado’s election results, be willing to relocate to Denver?  The answer to all but that last question is probably “yes”.  If the Lakers are going to get back on track in time to make a run in the playoffs, they need to make sure that whomever they hire fits the bill as Coach “Right Now” and they need to hire him soon.

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