This was gonna be a list of Five Bold Predictions for 2010, but I couldn’t think of the other four. So here it is:
Pat Riley will be the Lakers’ next coach.
Championship or not, Phil Jackson is only coaching one more season. And there are only a handful of coaches who are (1) good enough to take on a team of the Lakers’ caliber and (2) strong-willed enough to handle all that comes with coaching that franchise in that city.
And, more importantly, there’s an even smaller number of coaches whom Kobe Bryant will automatically respect, coaches that won’t ultimately lose the daily battle with Kobe’s personality for control of the team. That list: Coach K (who isn’t going anywhere), Gregg Popovich (ditto), Jerry Sloan (ditto again), Tex Winter (who’s 87 years old), Larry Bird (who’d never coach the Lakers), Magic Johnson (who’s proven he can’t coach the Lakers), and maybe Byron Scott or Larry Brown.
And Pat Riley. Always the opportunist — see how he treated Stan Van Gundy like the brother-in-law in The Godfather (“No, really, just get in the car”) — Riley is already crafting his exit strategy from Miami. When Dwyane Wade doesn’t sign a contract extension with the Heat this fall, puts himself on the free agent market next summer and eventually signs with the Knicks (I guess that’d be Bold Prediction #2), Riley will leave right after him and take over for Phil in Los Angeles. There may even be a tearful “retirement” press conference in Miami, followed three weeks later by an “I couldn’t stay away from the game” presser at Staples Center.
Riley wants another ring. And if he’s being real with himself, it’s probably not gonna happen for a while in Miami, and it sure as hell won’t happen if D-Wade is gone and he’s building around Mike Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Amar’e Stoudemire (Bold Prediction #3). If Riley is trying to go out on top — and I think he is — he’ll end up back on the familiar sideline where he first made his name in the game.