A key to becoming next Lakers coach? Know how to use Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant turns 36 in August and is under contract with the Lakers for two more seasons and $48.5 million.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers are slowly moving toward finding a new head coach. Very slowly.

“I would not anticipate hiring a coach in the next two or three weeks,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

But a key element in the selection process will be how the Lakers’ next coach employs an aging Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and former Coach Mike D’Antoni never saw eye to eye on the way to run an offense. D’Antoni wanted to go with a small-ball approach while Bryant, and veteran Pau Gasol, preferred a more traditional post-up scheme.


Gasol criticized it openly while Bryant was less verbose, presumably because he played only six games due to injuries.

But Bryant and the Lakers’ next coach need to be on the same page, Kupchak said. Preferably the same sentence too.

“We have a player on our team right now who’s proven in this league offensively who can score. That certainly is a consideration,” Kupchak said. “We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach can really get the most productivity out of him, whether it’s scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score. That’s probably of primary importance right now.”

Bryant turns 36 in August and is under contract for two more seasons and $48.5 million. He sat out the first 19 games last season while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon and played less than two weeks before sustaining a season-ending knee fracture in the same leg.

“We haven’t seen much of him in the last year but he’s been over here working out and he looks good,” Kupchak said from the team’s training facility. “Over the years, his game has changed from really a game where he’s pretty wild and athletic and at times out of control … in the early part of his career. In the last seven or eight years, he’s become more deliberate and of course he’s gotten a little bit older.

“I think you’ll see a lot of him posting up. I think you’ll see the ball in his hands making plays. I think Kobe knows where on the court he’ll be most effective.”

The Lakers are expected to talk to a slew of coaches before making a decision, including veterans George Karl and Jeff Van Gundy; former Lakers players Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis; and some college coaches including Roy Williams.

D’Antoni resigned from the Lakers three weeks ago with one guaranteed year and $4 million remaining on his contract. He received about half of that money as per terms of his resignation.