In a stunner, Lakers set to pursue UConn's Dan Hurley for head coaching position

The Lakers are planning to offer their head coaching position to Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley, according to people with knowledge of the team’s plans but not authorized to speak publicly.

The sides are expected to have increasingly serious discussions in the upcoming days, with the Lakers motivated to lure Hurley from college basketball.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more shocked,” one Lakers official said.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news early Thursday morning, sending a shock wave through not just the league, but also through the Lakers’ own building.

Considering the stakes at hand — the Lakers need to land on a head coach and Hurley’s desire and need to allow his players at UConn to be fully informed of their future — a decision is expected relatively quickly, perhaps by the weekend.

Hurley is expected to meet with the Lakers on Friday.

For weeks, the external expectations have been that the Lakers would eventually target former NBA player and current broadcaster JJ Redick as the team’s next coach.

Internally, though, that assessment was met with talk of a wide-open process, with some dismissing the Redick speculation as just “noise.”

That insistence, it turned out, was accurate.

The internal/external dynamic has left many people confused as to the Lakers’ path, which general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss have traveled in relative secrecy — the news Thursday providing the kind of bludgeoning effect that’s rare in an era where every step of a process is rationed out as news.

Hurley, 51, is expected to command an expensive long-term deal in the NBA, the coaching market being reset last offseason as deals with annual values of more than $10 million became common for the league’s top coaches.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue signed a five-year, $70-million extension last month to remain with the Clippers.

Hurley signed a six-year, $32.1-million deal to stay with UConn after his 2023 national title.

In Hurley, the Lakers are hoping to find a program builder, an experienced winner with a track record of development. Since the team moved on from Darvin Ham, people involved in the search have pointed to a big-picture approach with the hire. The hope has been the team can find a coach who can maximize LeBron James’ final years in the NBA while establishing the kind of culture that can sustain the franchise in its next era after James, with key pieces of the future like Austin Reaves in place.

“UConn fits me perfectly,” Hurley said on the Mike Francesa podcast earlier this week. “I do aspire, one day if the right NBA situation were to come along, I do aspire to really testing myself. … if the right situation were an organization that wants a tone setter to come in, instill a culture, young players in an organization that wants to pursue championships.”

James, according to people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly, hasn’t taken an active role in the Lakers’ search beyond echoing those big- picture goals. Anthony Davis and the long-term iterations of the roster have been a primary focus — one James himself had advocated for.

Hurley won the last two NCAA tournaments for UConn — an incredible feat in modern college basketball, with the Huskies being the third back-to-back champions since 1990, including Mike Krzyzewski’s two titles in 1991 and 1992 with Duke.

The Lakers famously tried, and failed, to hire Krzyzewski in 2004.

The list, though, of college coaches who have transitioned successfully to the NBA is a short one in the modern game. Chicago coach Billy Donovan, who like Krzyzewski and Hurley won back-to-back titles, has gone 399-319 in nine NBA seasons since jumping from Florida.

The team held formal on-site interviews with New Orleans lead assistant James Borrego last week and have spoken to a pool of candidates in less formal ways — a list that includes Redick and top assistants around the league such as Boston’s Sam Cassell, Minnesota’s Micah Nori and Denver’s David Adelman.

Redick, to date, has not had the same kind of organization-wide interview that Borrego got last week in Los Angeles. Nor has Hurley. Redick still, though, remains an option the Lakers hold in high esteem while the focus shifts to Hurley.

Speculation around the NBA has been locked nearly unanimously on him as he prepared to broadcast the NBA Finals, which began Thursday. Redick’s transition from player to broadcaster has set the stage for him to pursue coaching opportunities.

Tuesday, The Times reported that despite his status as a favorite, Redick and his representatives hadn’t spoken about contract numbers with the Lakers. The Times also reported that Lakers officials had warned against premature finality, saying the team was in “no rush.”

The Lakers, who have been linked to assistant coaches ranging from Scott Brooks to Jared Dudley to Rajon Rondo would look to collaborate with Hurley on any staffing.

Hurley is hardly the only college coach ever courted by the NBA and plenty before him have been close to making the leap only to return to campus jobs, where they generally have more autonomy.

NBA executives have expressed some reservations about hiring college coaches because the games are “just totally different,” as one told The Times.

There are rule differences, tighter shot clocks, longer game clocks, different terminologies, a lesser emphasis on practice, more games and, perhaps most importantly, different player-coach dynamics in the NBA than at the college level.

Hurley, the son of legendary Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., turned around programs at Wagner and Rhode Island before returning UConn to the top of college basketball.

Overall, he has a 292-163 record as a collegiate coach.

“I heard the great news that Lakers Owner Jeanie Buss and GM/VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka have had conversations with back-to-back NCAA champion and current UCONN Head Coach, Dan Hurley, about becoming the next Lakers Head Coach! I’m so excited and thrilled!” Magic Johnson posted on the social media platform X Thursday morning. “This would be a game changer for the Lakers organization, LeBron, AD, the rest of the Laker players, Laker Nation and the NBA! Coach Hurley can coach his butt off lol”

In addition to their coaching search, the Lakers have James’ pending free agency, should he opt out, as a top line item. The team also owns the No. 17 and No. 55 picks in the upcoming draft. And there are roster construction issues to be ironed out beyond James, starting largely in part with D’Angelo Russell and his $18.7-million player option for next season.

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