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Where do Lakers go next in coaching search after Hurley rejection?

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The “why” makes for excellent talking head fodder. Did Dan Hurley ultimately decide he just couldn’t leave his recruits, the Huskies and the East Coast? Was this all a leverage play to get more money out of UConn? (Reporters close to Hurley say no, he genuinely struggled with the decision.) Was the Lakers offer lowball? (Let’s not call $11.7 million a year, a doubling of his current salary, “lowball,” however, it was also not a Godfather offer he couldn’t refuse.) A little of all of the above?

Ultimately, the why is moot — Dan Hurley spurned an offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers to stay at UConn.

The bigger questions: Where do the Lakers go from here? What is the plan?

Hurley felt like the Lakers’ home run swing. Do they have another? Or are they looking for a sneaky double down the line? A solid single?

What the Lakers reportedly are seeking in a coach sounds more like a fantasy wish list than reality: a “grinder” who is a relentless game planner, who commands the locker room, will hold players accountable, and also is very good at player development. (Not only is one coach not going to embody all that, but things like great player development are organizational, not just coach-driven.)

Head coach of the Lakers is unquestionably one of the most prestigious jobs in basketball, however, it comes with plenty of warning signs for coaches who have options (like Hurley, or Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue years earlier). Ultimately, talent wins in the NBA, and the Lakers have finished seventh or worse in the West 11 out of the last 12 years (the exception was the 2020 Covid season, where they won the title). More concerning in attracting talent, even the coaches who have won — Frank Vogel won a title for the Lakers, Darvin Ham took them to the Western Conference Finals a season ago — don’t last. No coach since Phil Jackson has lasted more than three seasons with the Lakers.

Where do the Lakers go from here? Is there a plan?

The obvious answer is that the Lakers will resume their conversations with J.J. Redick and James Borrego. How far those conversations have gone depends on who is doing the spinning, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports they never got all that serious (although the buzz was loud enough that some within the organization thought Redick ultimately would get the job). Borrego is the proven, experienced coach considered a strong offensive mind, but he didn’t succeed in Charlotte. Redick is the bigger name — and podcast partner of LeBron James — who could grow into the job, but would be a massive roll of the dice as he has zero coaching experience.

Marc Stein mentioned a fascinating name in his newsletter: Former Villanova coach Jay Wright. A handful of years ago, this was the guy all the NBA front offices were drooling over. He’s not only got the Xs and Os chops, he showed incredible player development skills, and his temperament seems better suited for coaching in the NBA than Hurley. The question is, does Wright want to get back into coaching at all? Would he find something like the offer thrown at Hurley tough to turn down? If not Wright, is there another rock star college coach ready to jump to the NBA?

Whoever gets hired, what the Lakers need — what they have given lip service to but now must follow through on — is stability. They need a coach who can develop players and grow a program and a culture, and that takes time. The Lakers have always been able to land star free agents or get guys in trades, but when they were hanging banners it was because they had developed a core of good young players to go with those stars — Byron Scott, AC Green and others in the Showtime era, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton on future title teams. Look at the teams playing in this year’s NBA Finals and notice they draft and develop role players around their stars to make it all work.

The only thing that seems certain now is that the Lakers are going to take their time. This likely drags out until after the NBA Finals, although the Lakers reportedly want a coach in place before the NBA Draft, which gives them a little time.

But what is the plan?

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