The Lakers’ coaching search remains so open ended that it will likely include young and promising candidates and ones who have boasted extensive experience.
Consider former Lakers and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. as one of those possibilities.
“If I had an opportunity to interview with them I would definitely be interested,” said Dunleavy on his SiriusXM NBA Radio show on Thursday. “I had a great run there when I coached in the ’90s.”
Dunleavy coached the Lakers following Pat Riley’s firing and led them to the 1991 NBA Finals before losing to the Chicago Bulls in five games. The following season entailed some adversity, finishing with a 43-39 record, after Magic Johnson abruptly retired amid announcing he was HIV positive.
Dunleavy revealed he had also interviewed with the Lakers when they looked to replace Mike Brown following a 1-4 start in the 2012-13 season. The Lakers also talked to Phil Jackson and Mike D’Antoni, who was chosen before resigning on Wednesday amid two frustrating seasons filled with injuries and mixed support surrounding his fast-paced, perimeter-oriented system.
“It’s one of the premier jobs, if not the premier job in the league,” said Dunleavy. “They’ve got Kobe Bryant still on their team and he’ll be back next year healthy and I think he can play at a very high level. They’ve got cap space to use this summer to work on the team.”
Dunleavy’s affection for Bryant goes beyond coach-speak.
Bryant actually considered signing with the Clippers as a free agent in 2004 when the Dunleavy coached there.
“I think I have a good relationship with Kobe,” Dunleavy said. “I recruited him a number of years ago to come to the Clippers. I think at the time I had a good argument for it and I think we were very close to getting him to shift at that time. We had built a great nucleus with the Clippers and I think if he had come we could have won a championship.”
The Lakers are from championship contending after finishing with a 27-55 record, marking their worst season in L.A. franchise history.
Yet, Dunleavy gushed optimism about the Lakers’ fortunes, namely because he presumed Bryant will be healthier. He played in only six games after initially rehabbing his left Achilles tendon and then fracturing his left knee.
“The thing about him is not only has he been a great player, great skills, he also has a great mind,” Dunleavy said of Bryant. “So the one thing he has going over most people is that he’ll understand his body and he’ll be able to understand how to adjust his game for whatever he needs to do. If he comes back with as much athleticism as he had before his injury, he’ll deal with that. If he doesn’t, he’ll fix his game.
That’s the one thing about the great players. They have a great understanding of the game and they can change their game as time goes on. You saw it from guys that I had like Magic Johnson, he was always changing his game due to different needs. Jordan changed his game. I think guys that are just great players do that.”