The first order of business as the Lakers make their plans for summer vacation is to embark on what should be a lengthy and extensive head coach search. The nightmare of a season’s worth of injuries, losses and inconsistencies highlighted the terrible state of a storied NBA franchise.
Equally troubling for the Lakers was the fact that Frank Vogel struggled to better utilize what was at his disposal. The besieged coach failed to put the team in position to win, he did a poor job bringing the team together and couldn’t play a critical role in creating team chemistry. His terrible rotations and substitutions were both detrimental for the Lakers. He spent all season putting so much of the criticism he received behind him only to be made a good scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong with the team.
That’s a quick fall from grace for a coach who compiled a 127-98 record and guided the Lakers to their 17th NBA championship during the pandemic-shortened season. To no one’s surprise, after months of speculation, the Lakers fired Vogel after a disappointing, injury-plagued season. This Lakers team, the one that won 33 games in the regular season and finished 11th in the Western Conference, made the move of changing their head coach. The one bit good news that came from Monday was Vogel being removed as head coach.
All of the chaos, individualism, injured bodies plagued this Lakers team in Los Angeles. That has resulted in them watching from their couches at home, or somewhere at sea while on their yachts. The Lakers’ demise plunged them into abject misery. The recent problems can be blamed on Vogel and his coaching staff. It was time for a change, one that could be the difference between the Lakers maintaining a level of consistency and getting embarrassed. Time for the team to go in a different direction. Time for a new voice. Someone who is stern. Someone who is not LeBron James’ yes man.
And now that it’s over, now that Vogel’s tumultuous tenure comes to an abrupt end, Mark Jackson is a rumored candidate for the position, as he has a stacked resume and surely meet the requirements of an NBA head coach. With Vogel gone, Rob Pelinka is immediately tasked with conducting a search for his own replacement. The front office should reach out to Jackson about possibly accepting a challenging assignment with the organization. This is the bet the Lakers should make, without hesitation. That’s a win-win for the player and the team if they hire Jackson.
The nightmare scenario for the Lakers is that they foolishly and aggressively pursue Doc Rivers, hire him and settle for a coach who doesn’t come through when it counts. The fear is that the Lakers would actually choose Rivers to be that guy, when the preferred choice should be Jackson. For sure Rivers is a player’s coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s ideal in filling the Lakers’ coaching vacancy. Toronto’s Nick Nurse is reportedly a top target to replace Vogel, and while he’s a hot name, he’s not the one either. Knowing the Lakers, they would do such a thing, and that’s no disrespect to Nurse.
Purely from a coaching perspective, after seeing Jackson’s body of work with the Warriors, the hiring could significantly impact the future in Los Angeles. The idea of handing over the job to Jackson would be simply brilliant. There appears to be a future for Jackson in the organization, only if the Lakers hint at him. It just might be, that in a Lakers season that has been a total disaster, the one move to actually make.
Jackson is not easy to get along with. Not by any means. But anyone who has played for him before knows he just has that charisma about him. Still, he’s his own man, isn’t known as a pushover and you know … look, he has an uncanny ability to identify talent, brings the best out of his players, connects with most of his players, instills confidence and profoundly has an impact on their on-court production. And those are things you can embrace about him.
And to tell you the truth, at least one would hope, he’s the charismatic, high energy coach who can institute a consistent winning culture and help a dysfunctional Lakers organization reverse its fortunes. The foundation set by him in the Bay Area when he used to coach the Warriors, demanded accountability and effort from his players. We know the team lacked cohesion and chemistry because they hadn’t played together very often, or because no one knew their role. These Lakers didn’t respond well to adversity that followed them.
They should pursue him and, if indeed he does replace Vogel on the sideline, the roles on this team would certainly change. Jackson’s enthusiasm and energy would be infectious within a team atmosphere. With him at the helm, he would establish a different mindset. These Lakers, whoever is on the roster, would play with chemistry and resolute spirit that was nonexistent. During his stint with the Warriors, he went 121-109 in those three years, and was the architect who built what Golden State has become.
Expectations for the Lakers’ 2021-22 season soared after they largely built their foundation in trades and free agent signings. Unfortunately, for the Lakers, all of that did not result in winning games on a consistent basis at any point this season. The star-heavy, win-now approach by LeBron became a colossal failure as the Lakers’ season that started with promise ended with an underwhelming whimper. They were supposed to be as deep, as stacked and as talented as any Western opponent, but as it turned out, they stunk and deserve to miss out on the playoffs. Complete garbage.
It is hard to say Vogel did a lot wrong this season and yet, he was blameful for everything that happened. There had been a lot of talk in Los Angeles that the Lakers may have quit on Vogel as the season wore on. The face of the franchise revealed his worry. The rest of the team sounded the alarm when nobody showed up nor played hard. Their willingness to lose games was apparent.
The Lakers have to be better in making the right hire in their coaching search. If the Lakers try to fit the right pieces into the right places to give themselves the best chance to contend and if Jackson is next in line to take over, he should be able to come in and enjoy early success.
The Lakers, with their eyes on premier names around the league, should have Mark Jackson on speed dial. He should be the first person they call.