What Does the Lakers Slow-Walking Their Head Coaching Search Tell Us?
The Los Angeles Lakers have a problem. They desperately need to hire a new coach before the NBA draft but their top two candidates are under already under contract and the none of the remaining candidates inspire optimism.
Yet the Lakers seem to be slow-walking the process of finding a new coach. While stressing they want to have a new head coach in place before the playoffs, Pelinka seems to be deliberately taking time to search for a coach. The plan per Woj is for the Lakers to interview groups of three candidates at a time so as to be able to go deeper with each candidate and not have good candidates get lost in the process of a wide-spread initial search process.
The question that immediately jumps to mind is why would the Lakers want to slow down the search for a new head coach, especially since there are two other NBA teams actively looking for a coach and limited viable candidates. The Lakers were heavily criticized for doing a poor job during the coaching search that ended up with Frank Vogel as the new head coach, possibly ending up with the least impressive of three serious coaching candidates.
Here are four possible reasons why the Lakers are slow-walking their head coaching search and are not concerned that tweaking the normal head coach hiring process will result in their missing out on the best coaching candidate.
1. Lakers Need LeBron to Approve Extension Before Choosing Coach
The reason the Lakers don’t appear to be in a hurry to make a decision on a new head coach could be Rob Pelinka and company want to know if LeBron James will sign an extension before deciding who to hire as next head coach.
Legally, the Lakers cannot discuss an extension with LeBron James until August 4th although it would be naïve to think a decision as monumental as the King’s extension had not been discussed extensively by Pelinka and Paul. The Lakers’ entire season and near-term future depend on LeBron James signing an extension, even a 1+1 extension, so L.A. will know they will have at the least two more seasons to build a championship team around LeBron.
The assumption was the alliance between the Lakers and Klutch Sports was solid after Klutch and the Lakers both shot down the stories about LeBron possibly leaving the Lakers when his current contract is up next summer. Suddenly we now hear LeBron James may not be willing to sign an extension and could prefer continuing to play for the Lakers but on a series of 1-year contracts like he did during his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Frankly, that may not be acceptable to the Los Angeles Lakers as not having a commitment from LeBron could mean they wouldn’t be willing to take back long-term deals they could be stuck with if James were to decide to leave.
2. Lakers’ Preferred Pick Could Be Rookie Head Coach Candidate
The Lakers could be slow-walking their coaching search because they plan to follow the lead of the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets by hiring a rookie head coach and interviewing other candidates is just due diligence.
The rookie head coach the Lakers would hire is none other than Rajon Rondo, the future Hall of Fame point guard extraordinaire whose big-game smarts, fierce competitiveness, and respect as a basketball savant is unchallenged. After nineteen NBA seasons, the timing and opportunity is perfect for Rajon Rondo to become the Los Angeles Lakers’ new head coach and to lead LeBron James and Anthony Davis to the franchise’s eighteenth NBA championship.
Rondo has all of the key attributes the Lakers need in their new head coach. He obviously has a great relationship and mutual respect with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, having been their third star in the bubble championship. As former 1st and 2nd team All-Defensive and 3rd team All-NBA player, Rondo shared a similar history and reputation as a savvy player as Steve Kerr and Steve Nash and has everything the Lakers need and want in a head coach.
Everybody knows Rondo has the smarts to be a great NBA coach. As a rookie, you’d have to surround him with some veteran coaches like the Warriors and Nets did for Kerr and Nash but the timing and opportunity is right for Rajon.
3. Lakers Already Have a Solid Back Up Candidate for Head Coach
The other reason the Lakers don’t appear to be in a hurry to make a decision on a new head coach is they already have a solid backup candidate for head coach in assistant coach Phil Handy in case they don’t find anyone better.
NBA Insider Chris Haynes, on an episode of the Dan Patrick Show, revealed a name that has been quietly gaining momentum to replace Frank Vogel when he said “Somebody that they [Lakers] can look at in-house is Phil Handy.” Phil’s “one of the best or arguably the best skill development coaches but he wants to be a head coach in this league. He’s somebody who I’ve seen go at, cuss out LeBron James, Anthony Davis. He has the respect of that duo.”
There’s no question the Lakers’ front office values and respects Phil Handy. When rumors of Vogel’s firing started back in January, Phil Handy was the man everybody expected to be named as Interim Coach, not David Fizdale. When you look around the league at the assistant coaches who are most in demand and garner the most respect from the players themselves, Phil Handy is going to be near the top of every single list of future NBA head coaches.
While the Lakers are not ready to declare Phil Handy as their next head coach, look for him to be included in the upcoming coaching interviews. With Phil as their backup, the Lakers feel comfortable slow-walking their coaching search.
4. Lakers Know They Can Always Turn to Kurt Rambis to Coach
The only other possible reason why the Lakers are slow-walking their head coaching search is they believe as a last resort, as crazy as it may seem, they could have Kurt Rambis take over the reigns as the team’s next head coach.
The problem is we can’t use the norms we would expect from any large well-run company or organization in predicting whom the Lakers will hire as their next head coach because they run their franchise more like a family business. Every general manager or coach they have ever hired since the Buss family took over control of the Lakers had some link or relationship that made them part of the Lakers family. Candidates without that connection don’t count.
We see this in the coaches the Lakers have supposedly have some interest, which includes former Lakers’ assistant coach Quin Snyder, Phil Jackson protégé Nick Nurse, former Laker’s coaches Mike D’Antoni and Mike Brown. Each candidate has a connection to one of the members of the Lakers’ brain trust, which includes owner Jeanie Buss, brothers Joey and Jesse Buss, GM Rob Pelinka, Kurt and Linda Rambis, and Magic Johnson and Phil Jackson.
There is a scenario where none of the Lakers’ desired candidates take the head coaching gig and the Lakers are forced to take Kurt Rambis away from his important front office duties and have him be the team’s next head coach.
And yes, this option would be the equivalent of big market franchise suicide.
If you enjoyed this article and want to share your ideas and comments with other Lakers fans, please join us at Lakerholics.Com.