The Lakers are expected to reach out to Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie to gauge interest in their vacant head-coaching position, a pitch he plans to entertain with some uncertainty after guiding the Huskies to the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball championship.
“He’ll listen, but he’s real committed to his alma mater,” said a person familiar with Ollie’s thinking.
The Lakers are in the beginning stages of their coaching search after Mike D’Antoni resigned on Wednesday amid the team’s refusal to provide assurances they would exercise his team option for the 2015-16 season. They plan to consider a variety of candidates, ranging from high-priced coaches with NBA expensive to unproven albeit promising coaches from other backgrounds.
Ollie remains an intriguing option for reasons beyond guiding the seventh seeded Huskies to a national championship in only his second season as head coach.
Ollie had a non-descript 13-year NBA career, but he spent his final season in 2009-10 with the Oklahoma City Thunder where star Kevin Durant told ESPN’s Bill Simmons that Ollie was a “game changer” in bolstering the organization’s culture from a 23-win record in 2008-209 to a 50-win season and a first-round playoff appearance with the Lakers in 2009-10. Durant, who will likely become this season’s league MVP, will become a free agent in 2016.
Ollie also has hometown roots. He used to live in South Central Los Angeles and formerly starred at Crenshaw High.
Whoever becomes the Lakers coach has a huge responsibility. Although it is considered a premier job, the Lakers finished last season with a 27-55 record, sixth-worst in the NBA, partly stemmed from the players missing a combined 319 games because of injuries, most notably to Kobe Bryant (torn left Achilles tendon) and Steve Nash (nerve root irritation in back).
But the Lakers could have considerable purchasing power. The Lakers will field up to 12 free agents in July out of their 15-player roster. They are currently slated to receive a sixth overall pick in the first round, though the Lakers could move up in the NBA draft lottery on May 20. The Lakers are not expected to fill the position by then, so they can remain patient with the coaching search.