The Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Byron Scott on Sunday night, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical. Their next order of business is finding his replacement.
The Lakers released a statement announcing that they had decided not to pick up the option on Scott's contract to retain him as coach for the 2016-17 season, in which general manager Mitch Kupchak thanked Scott for his service and the team announced "the search for a new head coach will begin immediately."
It may not be a brief search. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the front office plans to make "a long list" of candidates to replace Scott. Two names that won't be on that list are Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau, after both took other jobs this week, with Thibodeau taking over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Brooks hired to succeed Randy Wittman in Washington.
The cupboard of candidates is not totally bare, however. Wojnarowski's report on Scott's firing included some potential candidates for the job:
Possible candidates to replace Scott could include Golden State assistant Luke Walton, former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, UConn coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
As did the report from Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
Possible replacements for Scott could include Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, UConn coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
Walton has long been a fan favorite to take over for Scott given his pedigree as both a former Laker who played under Phil Jackson, and now as an assistant coach under Steve Kerr in Golden State, where Walton stepped in as Interim head coach and led the Warriors to a 40-4 record while Kerr recovered from back surgery.
Jeff Van Gundy is an interesting name that had not been discussed a lot previously. An eleven-year head coaching veteran who boasts a winning percentage of .575, Van Gundy is currently serving in the broadcast booth for ABC and ESPN. He has always publicly said he won't interview for jobs that are currently occupied, so Scott's firing would open the door for the Lakers to have a conversation with the outspoken analyst.
Kevin Ollie has gone 97-44 during his time as head coach at the University of Connecticut, and previously played thirteen years in the NBA. Ollie reportedly has an excellent relationship with Kevin Durant, which some have posited could aid a team in attempting to recruit the superstar scorer this offseason.
Ettore Messina is a coaching legend in Europe, spent time as an assistant with the Lakers, and is now widely seen as a head coach in waiting as one of the top assistants of Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. Messina is known as a standout "X's and O's" guy, and has presumably learned a lot about managing an NBA locker room from his numerous years as an assistant in arguably the best organization in the NBA.
All of these names are interesting and would almost certainly be an upgrade over Scott, who helmed the two worst teams in Lakers history in consecutive years. As Bresnahan reported, however, the Lakers are going to make a "long list" that will likely include more than just these four names. The coaching search has begun.
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