The Los Angeles Lakers are in desperate need of a new direction. With Mike D’Antoni out as head coach, and with the Buss family presumably looking to shock the culture of the franchise back into the right direction, the Lakers have the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and build something special once again.
While Kobe Bryant would love to win his sixth championship within the next two seasons, after which he is expected to retire, it’s unlikely that the team will be in a position to do so. What Bryant can do is be the leader of this new era and help the next Lakers coach recruit free agents to Los Angeles, whether he is still playing for the organization or not.
The Lakers are going to hire a coach in the next couple of months and there is no shortage of qualified candidates. The Lakers could try to go out and hire a brilliant X’s and O’s coach like Tom Thibodeau, or a leader and dynamic personality like Mark Jackson. However, what they should be looking for is a recruiter. Yes, what the Los Angeles Lakers need most for the next five years is a coach who is going to act as it’s hype man, if you will.
It is clear that the Lakers are not going to build the franchise through the draft, despite the lottery pick that they have this summer. Mitch Kupchak has no interest in waiting around for ping pong balls to decide the fate of the franchise. No, the Lakers organization is committed to building the team through free agency. Let’s call it the Miami Heat model.
The next three summers will present an incredible array of free agents for the Lakers to try to attract to Los Angeles. Just look at the list:
The Lakers have to be working under the assumption that at least some of these marquee free agents will actually hit the market. The NBA’s CBA has made it more difficult for players to leave their teams via free agency because their teams can offer them significantly more money than the other teams across the league. If the Lakers are going to rebuild the franchise through free agency, they are going to have to be able to convince players that playing in Los Angeles and for the Lakers is their best career move.
It’s not quite as easy to convince free agents to play for the Lakers as it once was. Los Angeles is still a fantastic place to live, filled with beautiful women, incredible weather, and endless marketing possibilities. However, the Lakers aren’t run by Dr. Jerry Buss anymore and seem dysfunctional from the outside. NBA players aren’t going to leave money on the table, or pay California state taxes, in order to play for a dysfunctional front office and ownership. Quite simply, being a member of a 16x NBA champion and calling yourself a Laker, at this moment, doesn’t have the same panache as it did four short years ago.
That is the reason why the Lakers next head coach must be an incredibly appealing personality that can recruit the best of the best to play at Staples Center for the forum blue and gold.
The Laker organization has members of the family that could take on the recruiting role. Magic Johnson, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, could be the face of the Lakers and could help recruit free agents. However, unless he’s going to buy the Lakers, which the Buss family won’t be selling any time soon, he’s not going to be inside the organization and won’t be there day in and day out to be there for the players. Kobe Bryant could be the recruiter, but let’s face it, recruiting isn’t in Kobe’s blood. He’s more focused on assassinating his competition.
No, the Lakers need a coach who will define the identity of the team and convince free agents that LA is the ONLY place to be. The reason the Miami Heat organization was able to convince LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join the team was because Pat Riley, the President of the Heat, sold the vision better than anyone else in the NBA could. Riley is a master recruiter and pulled on all of the right strings. If you want to build through free agency, that is the type of leader that needs to be in charge.
So, who can the Lakers attempt to hire that is a master recruiter?
There’s some guy by the name of John Calipari who seems to have that skill. Calipari is the most ruthless recruiter in college basketball right now, and maybe one of the greatest ever. Just take a look as who he’s landed at Memphis and Kentucky over the past seven seasons. Do the names Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nerlens Noel and Julius Randle ring a bell?
Not only does Calipari have that “it” factor when it comes to recruiting, he’s a phenomenal coach who sells his vision better than anyone in College Basketball and the NBA. If the Lakers are truly committed to rebuilding the organization via free agency, then there is no other choice than Calipari.
Now all the front office has to do is convince Calipari to leave Kentucky. That may prove to be a more difficult task than actually rebuilding the franchise.