The Los Angeles Lakers made Frank Vogel the scapegoat for a crummy roster that delivered a pretty pitiful 2021-22 campaign and fired him. If they think a coaching change, absent major roster upgrades, is going to lead them back into championship contention next season, they’re crazy, but nevertheless, they need a new coach.
To that end, the Lakers interviewed former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts this week, per Adrian Wojnarowski, as well as former Golden State Warriors coach and current ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson, per Shams Charania.
Stotts, a predominantly offensive-minded coach who led the Blazers to eight straight postseason berths and a spot in the 2019 conference finals, would be a start departure from the defensively geared Vogel.
Perhaps the interest there would be in the case that Russell Westbrook isn’t traded. The Athletic recently reported that Vogel was canned, in part, because he couldn’t figure out how to make the Westbrook experiment work, which is a positively ludicrous claim from any number of vantage points. Westbrook is not a good player anymore. Most nights, he’s actively detrimental. It’s been that way for a while.
But LeBron James and Anthony Davis wanted him, and the Lakers’ front office, which of course is taking no responsibility despite ultimately executing the trade, already tried blaming LeBron and his agency, Klutch Sports, for pushing for Westbrook. When that didn’t hold water, Vogel became the convenient culprit.
Stotts was a good coach for a long time, but he, or anyone else, isn’t going to win a title with the Lakers with Westbrook playing any kind of meaningful role.
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As for Jackson, who last coached in 2013-14, the Lakers aren’t the only team in play here. Jackson is reportedly a finalist to fill the Sacramento Kings‘ coaching vacancy.
Jackson’s Golden State tenure ended in a blaze of bad feelings. Warriors owner Joe Lacob literally said pretty much everyone in the organization didn’t like Jackson, and indeed some pretty weird stuff went on there when he was in charge, including but not limited to players being pitted against one another (Jackson reportedly told players that an injured Festus Ezeli was actively rooting against the team to win in his absence) while fostering a environment so rife with paranoia than an assistant coach felt the need to secretly record conversations.
Jackson is credited, rightfully, with transitioning the Warriors from a laughingstock to solid playoff team. He undoubtedly changed the defensive culture and unleashed Stephen Curry, who blossomed into an All-Star under Jackson. That said, Golden State, it could be argued, ultimately underachieved under Jackson, as evidenced by the fact that Steve Kerr, with essentially the same roster, took the Warriors from a 51-win team and a first-round out to a 67-win team and a championship in his first season taking over for Jackson.
It’s to say Jackson doesn’t see the game different after spending the last eight years on TV and being exposed to a wide range of newer philosophies. We expect players to improve, but tend to view coaches as finished products.
Golden State was Jackson’s first coaching experience. He was there three years. If he were a player, he wouldn’t even have gotten off his rookie contract. We would never expect a player to not be better on his second contract than his first. It’s also worth noting that Jackson is a Klutch client.