- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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Although Alvin Gentry has a standing invitation to join Mike D'Antoni's staff as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers next season, he'd prefer to return to Los Angeles as a head coach ... with the Clippers.
"If you look at that job, it's probably the best one out there," Gentry said of the Clippers' vacancy Thursday in an interview on ESPNLA 710. "When you take into consideration the talent level that they have and what they did this year."
League sources have told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Gentry will be considered for the Clippers' job once the process gets more serious.
Other candidates the Clippers are expected to consider, according to league sources, include former Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, Golden State assistant coach Michael Malone, Indiana associate head coach Brian Shaw and Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins.
Gentry, who was the Clippers' head coach from 2000-03, said he's maintained good relationships with the franchise even though his previous tenure ended with him being fired midway through his third season.
"The one year [2001-02] we went 39-43, we just could not win some of the close games down the stretch because we were just so young," Gentry said.
Odom subsequently publicly apologized to Gentry for his immaturity in those years.
This Clippers team, though, is anything but young.
"It just needs a little tweaking," Gentry said. "I don't think you need to have someone come in and do completely the opposite. Vinny [Del Negro] did a good job, and I think everyone knows that. They need someone who can manage egos, that's huge with that team.
"You need someone who can manage the bench. That bench has been great for them and pretty much won probably 10-12 games outright for them. And you need someone who can come up with plays at the end of the game, a little more ball movement maybe.
"They [the Clippers] played Memphis [in the first round of the playoffs], and Memphis, they uglied up the game. It's a grind with them, and they couldn't quite get over the hump. But that team is very talented and talented enough that with a few things here and there, they could still be playing right now."
Gentry, who took the Phoenix Suns on a surprising run to the 2010 Western Conference finals, said he's been in touch with D'Antoni throughout the season. He also recently interviewed in Charlotte, which is about 90 minutes from his family's hometown of Shelby, N.C.
"I would obviously like to be a head coach with any team in the league," he said when asked whether he'd prefer a head-coaching job or an assistant job on D'Antoni's staff.
"I would love to run the team again. But if you weren't gonna be a head coach and the opportunity was going to be there, I still think the Lakers are the most historic franchise in this league."
Gentry served as an assistant coach under D'Antoni in Phoenix from 2004-08. He would slide back into a similar role with D'Antoni if he didn't get either of the head-coaching jobs he's interviewed for. And he said it's no small consolation prize.
"I think that team [the Lakers] are going to be really good next year," Gentry said. "Obviously a lot depends on how Kobe returns from the [Achilles tendon] injury, and that's a tough injury. But I can tell you right now that he is the one guy I would never bet against.
"And to me personally, I didn't think Dwight Howard was healthy [last year]. I know Dwight won't say that, but I think you're gonna see a new Dwight Howard next year. I think you'll see the same Dwight Howard you saw the last seven, eight years that you saw in this league.
"And the fact that they didn't have Pau [Gasol] for a stretch, and Steve [Nash] never really got acclimated because he was out for so long. I still think that that's gonna be a really, really good basketball team."
6dEthan Sherwood Strauss