2-Time Champion Claims Former Rookie of the Year Can Coach Lakers to NBA Title

The Lakers bench

Getty The Lakers bench

The Los Angeles Lakers need a new head coach after firing Frank Vogel and a two-time NBA champion believes the franchise should hire a former Rookie of the Year.

TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who won two titles with the Houston Rockets, thinks the Lakers should hire ESPN/ABC broadcaster Mark Jackson, who won the 1987-88 Rookie of the Year Award with the New York Knicks.

“I don’t know if anyone could save the day,” Smith told TMZ Sports. “Obviously, there’s a lot of great coaches that are coaching. So I hear those names, that’s improbable. One that’s not coaching probably would be Mark Jackson. Mark Jackson, you know, he knows how to handle that kind of environment. He put the Warriors in contention of what they are, you know, the way they play, style of play. Steph Curry owes a lot to his career because before Mark got there, Steph Curry wouldn’t even play in fourth quarters. People didn’t think he was a great player, a great defender.

“So Mark could coach that team to a championship. Mark Jackson could coach the Lakers to a championship, for sure.”

Jackson coached the Golden State Warriors for three seasons before being let go in 2014. He went 121-109 in the regular season and 9-10 in the playoffs.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers’ search for Vogel’s replacement is expected to be expansive and lengthy. Jackson has interviewed for various jobs since being let go by the Warriors, but he hasn’t been hired by a team. However, he may have an inside track at the Lakers job.

LeBron James Likes Jackson

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, LeBron James would be very enthused by the prospect of Jackson landing the Lakers job.

“And here’s a tidbit to monitor as the Lakers conduct their latest coaching search: Sources say James would be very enthused by the prospect of Mark Jackson landing the job,” Amick reported. “But as history tells us, that doesn’t mean it will actually happen.”

Amick makes a good point at the end of his reporting. Just because LeBron wants Jackson doesn’t mean the Lakers will hire the former NBA guard. If the King truly had the deciding vote, Tyronn Lue would have been hired as head coach in the summer of 2019 rather than Vogel. Lue and LeBron have a close relationship since they won the 2016 championship together on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

During his exit interview with reporters, LeBron was asked to talk about Vogel, who guided the Lakers to the 2020 title over the Miami Heat at the Walt Disney World bubble. It was an awkward conversation since LBJ didn’t know for certain if Vogel had been fired.

“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” LeBron said. “Our partnership that we’ve had over a few years here has been nothing but candid, great conversations. He’s a guy that gives everything to the gams. At the end of the day, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank being here, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”

For what it’s worth, Jackson is a big LeBron fan. The ex-Warriors coach, who is fifth in NBA history in assists, talked about his admiration for the Lakers superstar in September 2021 during an interview with Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.

Jackson on LeBron

Jackson believes LeBron “should be celebrated and acknowledged” even more than he already is. The Chosen One has been in the spotlight since he was in high school and he’s handled his fame, both on and off the court, the right way.

“This guy is as good as it gets,” Jackson said about LeBron. “And we truly take him for granted, the same way we do all of our greats, but he’s a guy that’s done it the right way and continues to take pride in finishing the proper way. He should be celebrated and acknowledged. We truly do take him for granted. He’s special.”

LeBron becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023. It will be fascinating to see how the 2022-23 season pans out and who will be the head coach of the Lakers.

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