-- With the Lakers firing Byron Scott, our writers weigh in on the Lakers' coaching vacancy. Whom should they target, and what other moves should they make?
1. The Lakers have dismissed Byron Scott. Your take?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: He was brought in for a frictionless coach-Kobe relationship and to provide a familiar face to fans who never welcomed Mike D'Antoni. Now Kobe is gone and the fans have turned on Scott, so there was no compelling reason to keep him ... except that firing him while Jim Buss still runs basketball operations means it's far from a lock the Lakers will hire the right replacement.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: He was the perfect placeholder to oversee two seasons of abject failure. This team needed to bottom out to ensure it'd get choice picks and, presumably, force Kobe Bryant's hand to just give up and retire.
Now that Bryant is out of the way and the cupboard has been restocked with a few promising prospects, the Lakers can go about their business of growing the team and developing their youngsters.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: As GM Mitch Kupchak plainly said in January, "This [season] is really a justified farewell to perhaps the best player in franchise history." Now that the season is over, the Lakers can move on and hire someone who is more than just a caretaker of franchise history, a coach who treats player development as more than an inconvenience.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: It was overdue. Although Scott had a challenging task of trying to manage the development of the Lakers' young talent while also dealing with Bryant's final season and everything it entailed, it's hard to articulate what he did well in L.A. The Lakers were horrendous at both ends of the court, as were Scott's Cleveland teams.
David Thorpe, ESPN Insider: What took them so long? I was a huge fan when he played for the Lakers, but he has been a subpar coach for a long time in this new era of the game. He never should have been hired to coach this team, unless it hoped to lose as often as it did. So, looking at the young talent the Lakers are assembling through the draft, maybe they are geniuses after all.
2. Did the Lakers make a mistake in not pursuing Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks?
Adande: They made a mistake by not putting themselves in position to go after Thibs and Brooks. I don't understand the delay if they were ready to move on from Scott. It's not as if they had to wait to see how the team would do in the playoffs. But I don't think it's necessary for the Lakers to hire someone with previous NBA head-coaching experience. Eleven of the 16 playoff teams have coaches whose first NBA head-coaching gig was their current one.
Elhassan: If Thibodeau demanded personnel control, then no, not in his case. Brooks is interesting because of his track record of developing young talent (and I don't mean just Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook). But we still don't know whom the Lakers will end up with, so there's a chance that it turns out well for them.
Arnovitz: Those were probably worthwhile conversations to have. Thibodeau is one of the best defensive minds in the profession, and the Lakers have been worst, second-worst and third-worst in the league in each of the past three seasons. Brooks is well-versed in superstar management, a skill the Lakers value in their head coaches. That said, it's not any kind of grand tragedy because there's plenty of coaching talent to go around.
Pelton: I don't think so. Thibodeau wouldn't have been a great fit for a developing team, and giving him personnel control in a free-agent destination doesn't seem to make sense. Brooks was a much better fit, but it's unclear he would have chosen the Lakers over the Wizards anyway. Washington is far closer to competing on the court.
Thorpe: Possibly. Each is a proven coach, and if you subscribe to the theory, as I do, that the interview process is a time that a franchise can learn "secrets" about the behind-the-scenes success and processes of other franchises, both Thibs and Brooks could have shed light on all sorts of things that could help inform the Lakers' opinions going forward.
That said, although the list of NBA coaching winners is short, it's longer than two names, so they should be OK.
3. Should the Lakers wait until after free agency to choose their new coach?
Adande: Not if that's supposed to be some ploy to lure a star. It didn't work last time. It also would be indicative of a visionless front office.
Elhassan: Not unless they don't plan on signing anyone. The best free agents want to know that a plan or vision is in place. An opening at head coach is not the biggest endorsement of belief in getting you to invest the next three to four years of your career somewhere.
Arnovitz: It depends on how collaborative a mood Kupchak is in. For teams that build a roster around draft talent, it's nice to have in the room the person who will be developing and nurturing that talent -- but it's not necessary. If the Lakers decide to hold off on a hire, though, it shouldn't be because they want to cater to a top-line free agent.
Pelton: Probably not. Unless Durant wants to come to L.A. and has a specific coach in mind, the Lakers should just find the best coach to develop their young players and figure out the rest later. No other free agent will change their direction dramatically enough to make it worth the wait.
Thorpe: Absolutely not. A list of guaranteed winners could be dry by that time. Better to secure the coach now, pick his brain on league personnel and begin to plot the future course of the franchise. Besides, quality coaches can and should help recruit star players.
4. Who should be the next coach of the Lakers?
Adande: Luke Walton would appease the fans. They loooooved him when he played for the Lakers and have been clamoring for him since the Warriors' hot start. UConn's Kevin Ollie would be an intriguing, fresh choice.
Elhassan: Walton is the hot name, and if he wants the job, he should get it. He's young, he has a good amount of coaching experience under his belt, he was a high-IQ player who won at the highest level and, of course, he has the vaunted Lakers bloodlines that the Busses seem to value so highly.
If Walton doesn't leave the friendly confines of Golden State, I think Ollie would be a nice outside-the-box hire as a respected former player with championship coaching experience and the right temperament for today's NBA player.
Arnovitz: Ettore Messina would bring a nice combination of experience: a mastery of inside-out basketball, the aura of Spurs-y culture, enough prestige for the image-conscious Lakers. If they wanted to act out of character, the Lakers could go the Nets' route and hire a young coach who specializes in a culture of player development and could grow up with the team. But that's not in their DNA.
Pelton: If the Lakers can get him, I think Walton is an ideal fit to try to recreate the Warriors' championship culture in L.A. Failing that, I would look closely at the college options (Ollie and Villanova's Jay Wright), former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek or a first-time head coach.
Thorpe: Messina seems to be a no-brainer hire, an accomplished coach who finds ways to win. He has been the top coach in Europe and an assistant with the Spurs and Lakers. Maybe he wouldn't be the sexiest name at a news conference, but once the winning began, no one would remember that. Former Cavs coach David Blatt merits an interview, too.
5. Should the Lakers make other changes?
Adande: Let's see: Of the four non-Phil Jackson coaching hires under Jim Buss, only Scott lasted two full seasons, and they were the two worst seasons in Lakers history. You can probably guess where I'm headed with this.
Elhassan: Kupchak needs to return to a more prominent role, and Jim Buss needs to fade to the background. Kupchak had a great track record as lead decision-maker under the late Dr. Jerry Buss, while most of Jim Buss' tenure has been marred by setback after setback. Beyond the front office shaking out, I actually like the Lakers' nascent core of young players and would like to see the team take a more patient approach to rebuilding.
Arnovitz: Depends on what kind of basketball organization they want to be. Along with the market, the Lakers' greatest asset is their mystique, and it's something you feel in Staples Center, even on a night they're losing by 30 points. They can bank on that tradition to reel in a superstar or two over the next three years, or they can go about the business of building an infrastructure that includes a commitment to innovation and a culture of accountability. The latter is a lot more difficult, and it takes longer -- but it's far more sustainable.
Pelton: Whether they should or shouldn't, changes seem likely to come next summer given how unlikely it is the Lakers become competitive next season. So from that standpoint, I don't like the timing of this move. In all likelihood, the Lakers will bring in new management that has to deal with a coach they didn't choose one year into a multiyear deal.
Thorpe: Whatever they do, it should be to allow them to focus better on developing their young talent. Julius Randle is a rebounding and effort monster who is just 21 years old. D'Angelo Russell needs to mature, which he will under a better coach -- he has huge talent at age 20. Add in a likely top-three pick, and the Lakers are a good free agent away from contending for a playoff berth, with all sorts of potential to explode after that. Provided they hire the right coach.
Bonus question: Many Lakers stars have become head coaches. Do you think Kobe Bryant will become a coach at some point?
Adande: Kobe has nowhere near enough patience to be a coach. Plus, hiring him to coach means eventually firing him. Who wants to have that convo?
Elhassan: Never. Despite my sincere admiration for his ability to articulate greatness (something I think most great players struggle to do), I don't think Bryant has the requisite patience or flexibility in leadership style to be an effective coach. Also, I don't think he'd want to do it!
Arnovitz: I'd be shocked. Coaching isn't a profession for solipsists.
Pelton: I don't think so. Like many all-time greats, Kobe would surely struggle to understand players who don't want to be great as badly as he did -- a problem with his teammates throughout his career. More importantly, Kobe doesn't seem to have any interest in coaching and has plenty of opportunities in the business and artistic worlds to satisfy his need for competition.
Thorpe: Anything is possible, but I'd rate it as extremely unlikely, at least in the next few years. With Magic Johnson's success in business, I can see Kobe taking a bigger-picture route to affect more people. Then possibly creating an ownership group to buy a team. Like Mike.