The coaching search is full steam ahead and the Lakers are not just sitting on their hands like last time. Instead they are now reaching out to assistants and making a long list of coaching candidates. They are going to look at each option and cross off names as they go. There will be some “due diligence” interviews with some coaches but I am sure that the Lakers have at least an idea of their top candidates that they will be fully pursing. Among those, a coach that is a highly regarded assistant throughout the league and well talked about coach within the fan base, Ettore Messina has so far dominated the rumor mill for the Lakers coaching search and has already been allowed to be interviewed as reported by Sam Amick of USA Today:
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Lakers have received permission from the San Antonio Spurs to interview their lead assistant coach, Ettore Messina, as a possible replacement for the recently departed Byron Scott. It is unclear how soon the team plans to interview Messina, the widely-respected Italian coach who won four Euroleague titles and was twice the Euroleague coach of the year before spending the 2011-12 NBA season on the Lakers coaching staff headed by Mike Brown.
The man has been said to be next in line to the Pop throne so it will be interesting to see if he stays as Coach Pop’s days are numbered and might retire alongside Tim Duncan, leaving Kawhi Leonard and the rest of that team to him. A team that is much more talented than the Lakers at the moment. The Lakers do, however, have a lot of cap space this summer and will look to add talent to a depleted team, apart from the core 3 of course. This combines to make the Lakers an appealing job.
Since the Lakers view him as such a hot commodity, they are acting swiftly and have him as a sort of back up plan in case Luke Walton decides to stay in Golden State as Marc Stein reports:
Although still very early in the process, he is clearly a top candidate to replace fan favorite coach Byron Scott. Stein continues to say that the Lakers are well aware of the success he has had in the world of basketball:
Many of you may be unaware of the success he has as a coach so let’s recap shall we. The Italian native has coached Virtus Bologna, Benetton Treviso, CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and the Italian National Team. In Europe, he has won 4 Euroleague championships and has won the Coach of the Year 2 times. He is widely known as one of the best coaches to ever coach overseas. He also has experience in the NBA as he was a consultant to Mike Brown when he was the coach of the Lakers and is currently the assistant coach to coaching legend Gregg Popovich. He certainly does have the Spurs’ stamp of approval as he is reported to be the heir to the thrown in San Antonio.
He certainly has been around and has enough experience to have a feel for the NBA and basketball as a whole from the get-go. Forum Blue and Gold did a interview with with Xavier Sanchez, a local that knows a lot about European Basketball, where Xavier stated:
Messina has always relied on “big” playmakers. Antoine Rigaudeau, Marko Jaric, Manu Ginobili or Theo Papaloukas are just the kind of guys he wanted to give the ball to, all of them over 6-6 feet. Neither of those have been great shooters (Ginobili being the best of them) but incredible ball handlers, with good penetration and playmaking skills.
He’s also used a lot 2 american guards during his stint in CSKA Moscow, JR Holden and former Duke (Blue Devil) Trajan Langdon, both under 6-3 but with great shooting stroke that could compensate the lack of shooting touch its big PG had…
…In his four Euroleague titles, 3 of the MVPs where guards (Ginobili, Papaloukas and Langdon) but saying his system is “guard friendly” would be taking it too far. I like Messina when he says that a good coach has the ability to detect the player strengths and draws a system to work for them.
These quotes are related to the subject of the 2 guards Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. It may not be a D’Antoni like system but it is good that the guard spot is at least somewhat of a focus, not like the isolation heavy “offense” that Scott ran. I am sure he has also added some Spurs-like concepts to his repertoire as he seems like someone that is flexible when it comes to adjusting to the modern NBA. Something Byron was never able to do on his own.
*A player that would seem to fit the style that Messina favors includes a passing big which, last time I checked, Ben Simmons is listed at 6’10” and is projected a PF. Julius Randle is another capable passer that fits this mold.*
All signs point towards him being a great get for the HC spot and could provide some much needed stability. He should certainly be atop many of the fans’ list of potential hires. It may not be a given but it is certain a positive sign that the Lakers are going with a more forward thinking coach (hopefully forward thinking when it comes to media comments as well).
In case you are interested to learn more about Messina’s line of thinking and philosophies:
Writer’s note: Messina is my personal top choice for the vacancy, even if Walton is available.