As the the Lakers front office contemplates whom should be the new head coach, we've been spending time debating the pros and cons of potential candidates to step into the giant shoes left by Phil Jackson.
We've covered the merits of each coach as far as experience and x's and o's are concerned, but there is one huge question that absolutely needs to be answered if any of these guys could even begin to think about leading the Lakers to reclaiming their Title back.
What about Kobe Bryant?
Over the past few years, this team had become Kobe's team just as much as it was Phil's. You'd read articles stating how Phil and Kobe would have their team ready. Phil and Kobe know what to do. Phil and Kobe will figure it out. Now there's only Kobe.
No coach that takes over this team will do so without the blessing of Kobe Bryant.. If you think I'm wrong consider this: Kobe Bryant is the cornerstone of the franchise. He's owed $83.5 million over the next three seasons, and Dr. Buss has privately said that Kobe is worth $80 million a year to him. Oh, and he has a no trade clause. Dude has some power.
Of course, I could be wrong, but I find it hard to believe that decisions like the next coach are made without his input or blessing. He's too valuable as a player and commodity. He's dug in for now. Plus, he's stubborn as hell.
In regard to the offensive demands that Bynum made Tuesday with local media, Bryant stated that the ball should continue to go through him first, Gasol second.
"Ultimately, [Bynum will] have to fall in line because I’m gonna shoot the ball – we all know that," Bryant said. "Pau is going to get his touches; he’s No. 2. And then [Andrew] will have to fall in line."
Fresh off getting swept by the Mavs, in a series that Pau Gasol laid an egg, and Kobe's heroics weren't enough to overcome Dirk's, Kobe reiterated the status quo. Because that's the way he wants it. Personally, I thought Bynum proved he can and will be ready to be the #2 option if that decision is made, and the Lakers are home watching the Playoffs in part because the offense sputtered. There are other factors why, yet taking a look at changing things up certainly shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.
I don't find any fault in the order of things staying the same from a sheer x's and o's standpoint. Pau is still the same guy. I do find the resistance to consideration wrong. Something went wrong this season. Could the new coach agree with Bynum? If so, then how does that fall in line with Kobe's train of thought? What I'm afraid of seeing is Kobe's dominant personality overtaking whomever becomes coach. Not because I feel Kobe is fading, or wrong. He's just not always right. Whose to tell him when he's wrong?
This season, Kobe made it known, more than ever, that he "eats first." It's certainly nothing new for him, but the situation has changed. The Lakers won't be calling themselves champions next season, and now, there's no Phil Jackson to bring him back to Earth should he veer too far from the foundation laid within the system. Kobe knows far too well what it takes. Is losing solely Kobe's fault? No, but just as he accepts the glory of winning, he's going to have to now accept the blame of losing. Especially, if he's going to defiantly and definitively state how things will continue to be. This team is still far too talented to not be considered favorites.
Taking over a championship team molded by Phil Jackson in a tough enough task in itself. His coaching style was famous for "letting players" figure it out. This team is full of veterans that know what to do, or should have. They've been there. They've done that. They've been to the hilt. Teaching them something different and convincing them that it's right will be no easy task. A task that will be far easier if Kobe is on board 100%. That will be the biggest challenge of the new coach. Making sure Kobe sees it his way.
This will be undoubtedly be Kobe's team moving forward. He's now the unquestioned leader, and his experience and pedigree will outweigh any coach brought in to take over the reins. Plus, Kobe has a lot to gain by winning another Championship without Phil Jackson. I'm sure he's fully aware of what a Phil Jackson-free ring means for his legacy. In order to get the rest of the team to follow suit and believe in the new coach in full, Kobe will have to set that example. So far, he's starting off on the wrong foot by marking his territory.
So, while the Lakers decide who will guide this team in the future, they'll do so knowing that the coach will have to cater to the skills and desires of Kobe. The system may change, the philosophy might differ, but Kobe will remain the constant. What we'll see in the future is that this will be Kobe Bryant's team more than whatever coach is manning the sidelines.