Lakers' Mitch Kupchak: Would be nice to hire coach before draft

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn't think his search for a new coach will take a long time.

Kupchak told the team's official television network Monday that he has a large list of candidates to be the Lakers' fourth full-time coach since 2011 but that he expects to narrow the field quickly.

"I think it's unlikely there will be anything done in the next week or two," Kupchak said on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. "But certainly I don't anticipate this dragging into the summer. We'd like to get it done. We're looking to have a big offseason. It would be nice to have our staff in place during the draft and certainly when July 1 rolls around."

A quick coaching search hasn't always been a priority in Los Angeles during owner Jim Buss' tenure atop the basketball operations department. The Lakers' last search lasted nearly three months -- or 89 days, to be precise -- between Mike D'Antoni's resignation and Byron Scott's hiring in the summer of 2014, well after the draft and free-agent signing period.

The Lakers fired Scott on Sunday night after the two worst seasons in the 16-time NBA champion franchise's history. Los Angeles went 38-126 under Scott, including 17-65 in Kobe Bryant's farewell season.

Kupchak said the Lakers dropped Scott due to "a bunch of things. ... If you're going to make a change, make the change now."

He also said the Lakers' miserable record -- second-worst in the NBA -- wasn't "the primary factor."

The Lakers waited 11 days after their season finale to fire Scott, which meant they missed out on the chance to interview Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, two respected veteran coaches who signed with other teams. Thibodeau would have been highly unlikely to get the same control of basketball operations in Los Angeles that he got in Minnesota.

Kupchak didn't name any candidates for the job, but he is quite familiar with Golden State assistant coach Luke Walton, already a popular candidate among Lakers fans. Walton was a Lakers forward for nine seasons before becoming an assistant in their organization and briefly a broadcaster on their network.

"There are a lot of different arenas that we can look to to find a coach," Kupchak said. "That opens up, clearly, assistants, existing head coaches, and we've got a list. We're trying to narrow the list down. We'll contact some people, and hopefully we'll have some phone conversations, maybe some in-person interviews, and go from there. I don't think it's going to drag out, but you don't know."

The Lakers are in the NBA draft lottery May 17, and they will keep their first-round pick if it lands in the top three. If not, it goes to Philadelphia under the terms of the long-ago trade for Steve Nash.

Kupchak hopes to land another franchise cornerstone with a high draft pick, but the Lakers' long-standing, win-now mindset during Bryant's career has left an enormous rebuilding project for the new coach.

"We have to rely on the lottery and the luck of the gods to give us a pick this year in the top three," Kupchak said. "We do know we have the second pick in the second round, which will be a good draft pick. And if we don't get this year's [first-round] pick, we'll get next year's pick."

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