Well, it finally happened: The Los Angeles Lakers fired Byron Scott.
This move was inevitable. The timing, however, was a bit bizarre. The news came late Sunday night, long after top head coaching candidates Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks signed new deals with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards, respectively. If the Lakers were going to can Scott, you would have thought they’d do so early, when they could stage the widest coaching search possible.
Still, Scott is gone, as first reported by The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and Los Angeles is already looking at a bunch of potential replacements—including Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton:
Scott had two team options left on his contract, but the Lakers told Scott on Sunday that he won’t be returning for a third season as head coach, league sources told The Vertical.
The Lakers move into the coaching market after two prominent coaches who had interest in Los Angeles – Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks – accepted new jobs in recent days.
The Lakers did not dismiss Scott with his successor already in place, league sources said. General manager Mitch Kupchak and ownership will run a search.
Possible candidates to replace Scott could include Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, league sources said.
Each of the suggested names shows the Lakers are at least looking in the right direction. Kevin Ollie has been mentioned as a future NBA head coach plenty of times, and Jeff Van Gundy’s sideline cache hasn’t even slightly dissipated during his time as a color analyst with ESPN.
Walton would be an ideal fit because of his familiarity with the organization. He wasn’t solely responsible for the Warriors’ great play without Steve Kerr, but spending two full years within that flawless culture only spells good things for his ceiling as a head coach.
Ettore Messina has long been considered a top coaching candidate as well. And with Gregg Popovich giving no indication he plans on retiring anytime soon, now might be the time for him to make the jump to another team, as its top authority.