Lakers' General Manager Mitch Kupchak says there's "no timetable" for coaching search
With a cold and glaring stare, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak sat in American Airlines Arena witnessing the quick unraveling of the defending champions.
The Lakers were only minutes away from a four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks. Lakers forward Lamar Odom and center Andrew Bynum each earned separate ejections for forearm shoves that only added to the embarrassment. And the telecast focused in on Kupchak's clear disappointment, setting up what surely would be a busy week.
Kupchak greeted a large media contingent Wednesday with polite greetings before revealing his disappointment he'd rather have conducted an exit interview six weeks later, the presumed timetable for when the Lakers would come off a three-peat. Instead, Kupchak had to move that schedule earlier, with player exit interviews marking just the beginning of what will be a long offseason. As Lakers forward Luke Walton said, "He's definitely trying to get to the bottom of why this happened."
Amid those conversations and his own observations, Kupchak would only share that there's "not one thing we can point to" that led to the Lakers' unraveling. He cited the heavy basketball mileage the team accumulated through three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and unspecified "distractions." He noticed the Lakers inconsistently executed the triangle correctly. And his dissatisfaction with the team's play mostly applied to everyone on the roster: "I’m not sure anybody with the exception to Lamar had a really great season," Kupchak said in reference to Odom winning the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award.
But one theme emerged from the exit interviews that helped Kupchak determine how he'll address the upcoming offseason. The players' all argued in some semblance what Kobe Bryant laid out Wednesday to reporters: "In terms of this being the decline of the Lakers, this is nonsense. I remember they had a pretty good era in the '80s and they didn't win three in a row. They didn't break that team up ... Do I believe we can come back and win it again? I absolutely believe that. If this team came back as is, I believe we can win."
It remains to be seen what exactly what will happen, but Kupchak clearly didn't jibe with Magic Johnson's thinking that Lakers owner Jerry Buss needs to "blow this team up."
"With the core players we have intact, we do think we can continue to contend," Kupchak said. "We may have to look to improve in certain areas, but once again that’s not something we sat down and discussed yet."
In what he envisions happening in the "next couple of weeks," Kupchak plans to meet with Dr. Buss and executive Jim Buss to discuss a number of issues. The first pressing topic entails who they will pick as head coach to succeed Phil Jackson, who made it clear he's retiring even if he didn't submit a form of resignation. Kupchak said there's "no timetable" for the coaching search, offered no list of candidates beyond acknowledging "one or two" members of Jackson's coaching staff would be considered (Brian Shaw, Chuck Person) and didn't reveal his hand on whether he prefers the triangle to remain or to return to the "Showtime Era." (The Times' Broderick Turner has a more extensive list on who the candidates are, including Rick Adelman, Byron Scott, Doc Rivers, Kurt Rambis, Jeff Van Gundy, Larry Brown, Mike Krzyzewski, Jerry Sloan and Shaw, whom plenty of players endorsed).
Interestingly enough, Jackson didn't want to appear to meddle in the coaching search and declined to tout Shaw's credentials, though he stated at training camp he hoped the Lakers would hire someone from his coaching staff to replace him. He was willing to outline, however, what the team's lacking.
"It's still a good team. It needs to have some speed," said Jackson. "They need to get some easy baskets."
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