Lakers' next coach? Here are potential candidates


The Lakers have fired coach Darvin Ham after two seasons, both of which had some unarguable successes and both of which ended with the Lakers losing to Denver in the playoffs.

The team reached the Western Conference finals in Ham’s first season and won the in-season tournament in the second. But inconsistent lineups and too much experimentation with personnel combined with a lack of locker room support led to frustration with the bench.

Whatever the cause, the future is now what matters most.

Who, or maybe more interestingly, where, will the Lakers turn to next?

The established

There’s an assumption in some NBA circles that the Lakers, as they’ve been prone to doing, will turn hard toward the other direction after deciding the road they were traveling was incorrect.

They replaced an outsider in Mike D’Antoni with an insider in Byron Scott. They replaced Scott, an experienced coach, with Luke Walton, who was getting his first head coaching job. After Walton, they went with someone more experienced in Frank Vogel (after talking with other experienced coaches such as Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue).

And after Vogel, they hired another first-time head coach — Ham.

So if the Lakers are going to zig after they zagged (no, not Mark Few), where could they look?

Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson was a finalist for the Lakers job two summers ago. Former Portland head coach Terry Stotts has been high on the team’s wishlist on multiple occasions, with the Lakers trying to hire him as a lead assistant, according to people familiar with the situation who are not authorized to talk publicly on the matter.

Atkinson, in particular, impressed some in the Lakers’ front office during their last coaching search.

Lue, of course, would be a primary target should he become available (and probably the same for Jason Kidd), but he’s got a job and, possibly soon, a contract extension.

Mike Budenholzer, Ham’s former boss in Milwaukee and Atlanta, is expected to fetch the biggest coaching contract this offseason should he take a new job.

Other former head coaches who have lead bench roles around the NBA include Scott Brooks and James Borrego.

The redo

The Lakers could buck their hiring trends and again try to find an established assistant coach ready to take on an elevated role.

Denver’s David Adelman has had a front-row seat for the Lakers’ issues with the Nuggets and has fans inside the Lakers’ front office.

Minnesota assistant Micah Nori is about to take on a prominent role after Timberwolves coach Chris Finch suffered a knee injury in his team’s sweep against Phoenix.

Boston assistant Charles Lee worked with Ham in Milwaukee and has been regarded as a top coaching prospect who is considered a top candidate in Charlotte. Celtics assistant Sam Cassell has interviewed for top jobs as well.

Dallas’ Sean Sweeney is also seen as a strong future head coach, and Mavericks assistant Jared Dudley is very close with Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Miami’s Chris Quinn is also highly thought of in league circles.

Going this route again — while acknowledging there is no time for a learning curve with James and Davis anchoring the core — probably isn’t the ideal option.

But, it could end up being the best one if the Lakers don’t find a guy with experience.

The wild card

One name that’s had some steam behind it early in the process belongs to TV analyst JJ Redick.

Redick, who’s name surfaced in regard to the Charlotte opening, is a strong enough basketball mind in James’ book that the two partnered together for a podcast about on-floor strategy.

Redick has never coached in the NBA, though. And again, the Lakers are entering a period of real urgency.



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