Aside from free agency and the draft, the Lakers have had one other outstanding item on the agenda: hiring a head coach.
They have taken criticism from the media for drawing out their process this long, and perhaps rightfully so.
The coach is supposed to set the direction of the team, they are supposed to help supply the template to which the front office builds around. The Lakers have not had that template, and are currently the only team in the league without a head coach.
Those who complain, or wonder why the Lakers are taking so long are missing the big picture: it may not matter as much as you think.
Now, this isn’t for me to say that head coaching does not matter in the NBA; it does, and this year’s champion should erase any doubt of those who believe otherwise.
My point is that the Lakers largely began the offseason as a blank slate. The front office made their own template. It makes more sense to fill out the roster, and then hire a coach that can make it work.
Assuming the Lakers hire Byron Scott (they’re interviewing him a third time), they’re getting a coach who runs principles of the Princeton offense. This offense requires cohesion as a team, but is largely able to adapt to who is on the roster.
In short: this offense could be installed quickly, and with any set of players.
At this point, it’s up in the air how the roster will fill out for the Lakers. Will it be a crew of veterans on cheap deals? Or will it be the youth movement we saw last season?
Either way could lead to the pursuit of different coaching candidates. Some coaches specialize in developing that young talent, some coaches need a veteran group.
The fact of the matter is that currently, there is uncertainty regarding how the roster will look in its final form.
Another reason that not having hired a coach at this juncture is acceptable is that the Lakers’ plan seems to be to start from nearly scratch again in two years. Why invest in a coach that could very conceivably be out the door in the next couple of seasons?
After Kobe Bryant moves on, the roster becomes truly a blank slate, allowing the Lakers to take another swing at molding the talent on their roster any way that they see fit. The incoming coach is likely just a stop-gap until Los Angeles needs to entice the big name guys again in a few seasons.
Sure, it’s not typical to have a team head to the summer league without their guy at head coach, but at this point what does it matter? Are there teams lining up to scoop Byron Scott off the market? What is going to change?
Eventually the Lakers will hire a coach, one they feel confident can produce something with the roster they decide to move forward with. There are no meaningful games to be lost in July, and training camp is not quite upon us, no matter how fast it seems to be rocketing to the forefront of the schedule.
Right now, the focus should be on putting together a roster. After that, all eyes can return to the coaching search.
Until then, no coach, no problem.