May 13, 2011
The last time Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers, the team was chafing under his guidance, and abandoning its defensive and offensive principals. 2003-04 was a tough, soap opera-y go of things, and Jackson wanted out. The team, though it preferred him staying, wasn't exactly broken up about it.
The Lakers, looking for veteran guidance, then hired former Rockets player and coach Rudy Tomjanovich. He had led Houston to two titles just a decade before, and he was itching to get back on the sidelines after Jeff Van Gundy usurped him in Texas. He was a vet, he knew all the players, and he was more than comfortable on a sideline.
He kind of stunk as a Lakers coach, though. His isolation style didn't sit well with the players who had worked through Jackson's ball movement offense for several years prior, and both Rudy T and the Lakers amicably parted ways midway into 2004-05.
So why would Rick Adelman be different?
Well, he does encourage spacing, ball movement, and offensive stylings away from the ball. Of all the NBA coaches that don't encourage the triple-post offense, Adelman might have the best spacing and movement of any sideline stalker out there. Toss in his gravitas and history (The former Blazers guard has coached four different NBA teams, and three of them weren't terrible), and you can get giddy at the idea of someone who knows what he's doing asking for a bit more than for Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) to run another screen and roll. Because that particular play killed the Lakers during this year's postseason.
[Related: Celtics give Doc Rivers $35 million deal ]
Of course, Kobe is on record saying he'd prefer current Lakers assistant Brian Shaw to take the reins in Los Angeles, but it's not like that guy has any sway, right?
We've long suspected that the Buss family would make a point to not select Phil Jackson's asked-for replacement in Shaw, just to strangely send a shot at Phil. Introducing Adelman as the next head coach, though, wouldn't be that bad a move. Hiring some obsessive sort, to hear Jackson tell it, won't work:
"There are a lot of systems that are very similar to ours in this game that go by keys and go by passes, instead of by coaches running up and down the sideline calling all the plays."
The Lakers are a championship team in waiting, ready to be kicked in the tail and reminded about how much they have to work to become as great as they can be. Apologies to Brian Shaw, but hiring in-house might not be enough to push that team over the top.