With the Lakers parting ways with Byron Scott on Sunday night, they did not just try to cleanse themselves from two seasons that ended with their worst record in franchise history. The Lakers also hoped to find the right coach for what will mark their fourth search since Phil Jackson retired in 2011.
As of now, the Lakers are treating how to fill their current coaching vacancy with an open mind. They plan to compile a “long list of people,” as one person familiar with the situation said. Those candidates will include varying backgrounds and degrees of coaching experience.
Former NBA coaches could include Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Current NBA assistants could include Golden State’s Luke Walton and San Antonio’s Ettore Messina, which would require the Lakers to seek permission from both teams to interview. College coaches could include Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
The Lakers plan to go through multiple stages of interviewing and then reevaluating candidates before both narrowing their list and hiring their next coach. Still, the sentiment around the league casts Walton as the favored candidate for multiple reasons.
Walton has built close relationships with various members of the Lakers organization as playing a key reserve from 2004 to 2012, which included two NBA championship runs in 2009 and 2010. Walton has also sparked buzz for guiding the NBA-defending champion Golden State Warriors to a 39-4 record while head coach Steve Kerr recovered from offseason back surgery.
Golden State generally allows its assistants to interview for head-coaching positions even before the NBA playoffs end so long as it does not interfere with their current job. For example, the New Orleans Pelicans were granted permission to interview former Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry in mid May before the Warriors’ eventual title run.
If the Warriors eliminate the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their first-round series in Oakland on Wednesday, that could make it easier for both the Lakers and Walton to schedule any possible interview before the Western Conference semifinals begin.