The Los Angeles Lakers have had to replace two coaching legends in the last 20 years: Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. The only time it's worked out well, the team turned to Mike Dunleavy. They're thinking of doing the same again this time.
Dunleavy was contacted by the team this week and is said to be on the team's most-current "short list" to succeed Jackson, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Though his recent history with the Clippers was unsuccessful, Dunleavy is still viewed as a strong tactician around the league with an impressive history of postseason success. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1999 with the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers have always thought fondly of the job he did in replacing Riley in 1990, leading the team to an upset over the Trail Blazers in the 1991 Western Conference finals before losing to Jackson's Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Dunleavy has maintained a friendship with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and his son Jim Buss over the years. As recently as last year he watched Lakers games with Buss from his suite at Staples Center.
He also has a long history with Bryant, whom he courted and nearly convinced to join the Clippers as a free agent in 2004.
Dunleavy is the winningest and was the highest-paid coach in Clippers history. He took the franchise to within one win of the Western Conference finals in 2006.
Dunleavy has a career record of 613-716 as a head coach with the Lakers, Milwaukee, Portland and the Clippers. Besides the 1990-91 run with the Lakers, he came within one game of the 2000 Finals with the Trail Blazers before a fourth-quarter collapse in Game 7 propelled Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant to their first of three championships together with the Lakers.