The Case for Mike Dunleavy as the Next Coach of the Lakers

Over the past few days we’ve examined what we believe are the four likeliest candidates to become the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. The idea behind exploring the possibilities individually was to paint each prospective hire in the most favorable light.

Essentially, think of these last four articles as courtroom arguments made without prejudice. If we seem contradictory at times it’s only because we’re trying to see each potential coach through the most optimistic lens. Today we focus on the last of the four, Mike Dunleavy.

Just as with Adelman and Van Gundy, Dunleavy comes with an experienced resume that includes success at multiple coaching stops. He guided the the Clippers to their most successful season in franchise history (no small feat considering the owner), captained a Portland team that was within a quarter of ending the ShaKobe Lakers dynasty before it ever got started, and of course took the Lakers to the finals in his rookie coaching campaign.

In fact there are many in Lakerland that still have fond memories of Dunleavy’s brief coaching tenure. Over the years he has maintained a great relationship with the Buss family and his hire would come with a sense family that of the other candidates, only Shaw can match. On an personal level Kobe Bryant has also expressed a respect and liking for Dunleavy, and we can all assume that no coach will win the job without a nod of consent from #24.

Furthermore, one of the reasons the that the Buss’s think Dunleavy would be a good fit now is that they put him in essentially the exact same position before and he showed himself superbly able. Think back to that ’91 season. A veteran team coming off an underachieving postseason the year prior, perhaps at the tale end of it’s dynasty. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Dunleavy took over that squad and orchestrated a seamless transition, putting the Lakers right back in the finals against the Bulls. Some, including 710 ESPN’s Mychal Thompson (a backup center on that ’91 squad) insist the Lakers would have won the championship if James Worthy hadn’t gotten hurt after a Game 1 victory in Chicago that changed the match up dynamics of the series. With Worthy hurt, Scottie Pippen was able to switch over to guard Magic and the rest is history.

In the end, the selection of Dunleavy would represent something of a middle ground between change and continuity. On the one hand, he would certainly dump the triangle offense and bring a coaching philosophy that diverges significantly from Phil Jackson’s more hands off approach. But he is also a known quantity within the organization, someone who can coexist effectively with management as they form a vision of how this team will develop.

Would he be the best guy the job? He very well might.

Today was the last in a series of articles making the case for the next coach of the Lakers. In the past four days we have examined Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman and Brian Shaw all as potential candidates.

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