The Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with head coach Byron Scott on Sunday night, and since then there have been countless rumors about who the team will hire as their next head coach. In all of that scuttlebutt and anonymous sourcing, two names have remained constant: Luke Walton and Ettore Messina.
The two men's resumes are impressive. In Walton's brief time as a head coach, he led the Golden State Warriors to a 40-4 record while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. Messina's own list of coaching plaudits is longer, with 4 Euroleague titles and several years spent as an NBA assistant coach with the Lakers and in his current position with the Spurs.
Lakers vice president Jim Buss is said to be 'partial' to Walton, and the Lakers have already asked for and received permission to speak with Messina. The two assistants are currently in the middle of playoff runs, but based on the latest report from Marc Stein of ESPN, it sounds like the two are the Lakers top targets:
NBA coaching scuttle: Hearing Ettore Messina will get a very legit look from the Lakers if they can't lure Luke Walton out of Golden State.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 27, 2016
The Lakers already know the European coaching legend's work after Messina's stint as a Lakers assistant and now he's got Spurs appeal, too— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 27, 2016
With Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks off of the market, these are the top two names on the wish lists of many Lakers fans as well, and considerably better options than the names most heavily discussed during the Lakers' last coaching search.
Perhaps most significantly, the Lakers preference for Walton and Messina signifies that the team is willing to go away from the "veteran head coaches" they were said to be looking for last time around. The benefit in hiring a candidate with NBA head coaching experience is that the team knows what they're getting, but that's also the downside. Those coaches are usually not with the NBA team that hired them for a reason, and Walton and Messina both offer considerably more upside than the retreads on the market.
Either of them could flame out too, but the Lakers being willing to look away from known quantities and coaches that may have growing pains is particularly encouraging given that the man at the head of their front office has a very public deadline to return the team to contention, and appears to be looking at the long-term health of the franchise anyway.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.