My top 5 choices are:
#5. Byron Scott - He has a history with the team, he has some experience with winning basketball, and his coaching resume is decent.
#4. Nate McMillan - He is a coach that commands some respect. He has experience with winning basketball in the cut-throat western conference, and his overall resume is good.
#3. Lionel Hollins - His sample size is smaller than the other coaches on this list, but (aside from an anomalous 4 game coaching stint in '04-'05) his winning percentage has INCREASED (from .300 to .333 to .488 to .561 to .621 to .683 )with each new season. I'm not saying he'll win 57 or more games with the Lakers next season, but he has shown that he has a lot of promise as a head coach.
#2. Jeff Van Gundy - He is, simply put, a GREAT head coach. He makes the most out of the players he has. It's not his fault that Tracy McGrady's back, and Yao's foot, went south just as he was getting his feet under him in Houston, and his performance in NY was consistently excellent given only marginally above average talent on the roster...
Van Gundy won an average of 49.5 games in his 4 full 82 game seasons in NY and (aside from the injury riddled '05-'06 Rockets season, in which McGrady and Ming missed a combined 60 games due to injury) Jeff averaged 49.3 wins in Houston. Conclusion? If you want to win 49+ games with an average roster, which is a realistic projection of what LA will have over the next two seasons, he's your man.
With a career W/L% of .575, he tops out this list, well...except for
#1. George Karl – Simply put, George Karl is the gold standard for coaching excellence. If not for Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe, and his own team's failed Carmelo/Iverson experiment, he may also have championships on his resume as well. Not everyone can win rings, especially considering that they are largely (especially in the NBA) determined by the players that management is able to draft and sign more than the system that you run.
How great has Karl been? In 25 seasons, Karl has only been under .500 THREE times...all of which came in his first two coaching stints in Cleveland and Golden State. His career W/L% is .599, which means he'll get you 50 wins or more every year he is your coach. The Lakers may not be able to get Phil Jackson back on the bench, and they may not be champions again soon, but I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job than Karl with this current Laker situation.
Brian Shaw, a favorite name drop for people on this forum as a Phil replacement, is on pace to lose 20 more games this season than Karl did last season with an almost identical roster. Also, consider that Karl's specialty is a system that is up-tempo and also aggressive on the defensive end. He thrives with teams that are deeper than they are talented at the top. He also excels at developing young players, and crafting chemistry with limited rosters. Simply put, DO IT MITCH!!!
The End is nigh. Time for a total Cut and Shuffle. Kobe contract was a mistake...time to avoid making more. The future is here, whether we want it to be or not. An era is over, but for the death rattle, and it's time for the cycle to begin anew. Growth and change are scary and painful, but alas...nothing worth achieving comes easily.