Lakers Narrowing Down List of Serious Head Coaching Candidates

After he led the Los Angeles Lakers to two playoff appearances, including a Western Conference Finals, in his two seasons at the helm, Darvin Ham was unceremoniously dismissed by L.A. general manager/team president Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss this spring. He posted a 90-74 regular season record with the club during his two regular seasons in charge.

Now, Pelinka is looking to hire his fourth head coach since he’s been one of the key decision-makers in the Los Angeles front office, and his third pick since assuming full control from Magic Johnson in 2019.

During a recent appearance on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show,” Shams Charania of FanDuel TV revealed some of the big lingering names Pelinka and Buss were considering.

“I think next week, the week after that, I would expect the Lakers will really ramp up their head coaching search,” Charania said. “I would look at names like Kenny Atkinson, JJ Redick… Even guys like David Adelman, who’s an assistant coach in Denver right now, James Borrego, an assistant coach in New Orleans right now. They’re going to have a wide net. I would expect them to interview an abundance of candidates.”

As far as projecting what kind of Lakers roster a new coach will be getting in 2024-25, Charania projected that All-NBA combo forward LeBron James will most likely be back in uniform for the Purple and Gold. James, who at 39 is the oldest player in the league, has a $51.4 million player option for next year.

“They’re going into it with the mindset of having LeBron James, building around him, building around Anthony Davis [next year],” Charania noted. “LeBron James has until June 29 to pick up his option or not. He also will want to see what moves do the Lakers make before that option date?”

Rob Pelinka Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on February 22, 2024 in San Francisco, California. Pelinka will oversee his fourth head coaching…

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Last year, Los Angeles finished with a 47-35 record and secured the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed after winning its play-in contest against the New Orleans Pelicans. The club subsequently fell in five quick games to the defending champion Denver Nuggets during a first-round matchup.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, meanwhile, has indicated that there is serious momentum behind Redick, James’ colleague on the new “Mind The Game” podcast, getting consideration for the gig.

“They’ll be in Chicago for the league’s combine. You can expect them to start calling for permission to talk to coaches around the league, assistants,” Woj said. “But one name that the Lakers have been drilling down on amid their initial research here: JJ Redick, our colleague at ESPN. He is somebody the Lakers are intrigued with… But expect this to be a wide-ranging and lengthy search for L.A.”

A 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Redick enjoyed a 15-year playing career as a key sharpshooter on several contending teams. His basketball mind has been on full display during his ESPN appearances (he provides game commentary as well as guest work on various shows) and the aforementioned pod he co-hosts with James. Redick was drafted in the class of 2006, three years after James, though he is six months James’ senior.

It will be probably more intriguing to see how Los Angeles operates with its roster construction this summer than with its head coaching search. Ham was a serviceable option who performed capably enough. His predecessor, Frank Vogel, immediately won a championship with the Lakers during his first year stewarding the squad in 2019-20, but he wore through his welcome after three seasons. Short of an Erik Spoelstra, it’s hard to see the Lakers really improving that position in a way that could help them steal a playoff series or two. What matters most is how the club addresses its three-point shooting and perimeter defense, two major issues of lingering need in 2023-24.