Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dan Hurley sets Lakers coaching decision timeline as L.A. waits for word from top target, per report

Dan Hurley will make his final decision about whether or not to take the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job on Monday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. The two-time reigning national championship coach of the UConn Huskies may have only recently entered the public’s consciousness as a Lakers candidate, but he has reportedly been the team’s top target from the start. After a lengthy courtship, the Lakers are now potentially one day away from securing a coach that they believe can build a long-term winner in Hollywood.

If Hurley does indeed take the job with the Lakers, it would complete one of the more rapid ascents in recent coaching history. From 2001-2010, Hurley coached at the high school level, like his legendary father Bob Hurley Sr. From there, he landed his first head coaching role for a college team, Wagner, which he eventually parlayed into jobs at Rhode Island, UConn, and now, he chooses to accept it, with the NBA’s marquee franchise.

Several coaches have made the leap from college to the pros, and some, like Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan, have experienced measures of success in the NBA. However, the only coach ever to win championships at both the college and professional level is Larry Brown, who won it all with Kansas in 1988 and the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Generally speaking, college coaches have struggled to make the adjustment. In the past 30 years, college coaches who have made the jump to be first-time NBA coaches have gone 1,483-1,797 at the professional level, according to CBS Sports research.

Hurley will be trying to buck that trend if lands in Los Angeles, and he would seemingly do so with the support of the Lakers’ best player. In April, LeBron James responded to a tweet about Hurley by saying “He’s so DAMN GOOD!!! Along with his staff. Super creative with their O! Love it.” 

James, who will turn 40 next season, has reportedly pushed the Lakers to think about the long term with this hire. His agent, Rich Paul, recently told Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes that the Lakers should be thinking more about Anthony Davis‘ timeline than James’ at this point, and Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers want to be sure that Davis is satisfied with whomever they hire. Blessings from the two Laker stars would seemingly give Hurley a lengthy runway to figure out the NBA and adjust as needed.

The Lakers are reportedly willing to make Hurley one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA. His contract at Connecticut is worth a reported $32.1 million over six years. That would be a relatively low figure in a league that now includes several coaches earning eight figures per year. A large contract for Hurley would represent a significant change for a Lakers team that has lately resisted making significant financial commitments to coaches. When they tried to hire Ty Lue in 2019, they reportedly only offered him a three-year deal. He declined that offer. Frank Vogel took it, and when he won the championship in 2020, he was rewarded with only a one-year extension in 2021. Darvin Ham’s contract with the Lakers was for four years, and at a reported $3-5 million per year, paid him as a first-time head coach rather than an established winner.

But their willingness to pay Hurley at the top of the coaching market reflects just how badly the Lakers wanted to secure his services, and what they will expect out of him now that he’s in Los Angeles. The Lakers have had six full-time head coaches in the 13 seasons since Phil Jackson retired. They’ve fired team legends, former Coach of the Year picks and even a championship-winner in that time. Nobody has lasted longer than three years in the job since the end of Jackson’s tenure. But in Hurley, the Lakers see a long-term program-builder, someone who can lead the franchise through the end of the James era and into whatever comes next.

Several other candidates are awaiting Hurley’s decision to find out if they still have a shot at the Laker job. Most notable among them is ESPN broadcaster JJ Redick. Throughout the process, he had been billed as the frontrunner for the position. Reports even indicated that the Lakers considered him a “Pat Riley-like coaching prospect.” Redick has become a popular coaching candidate around the league, interviewing for top jobs with the Hornets and Raptors over the past two offseasons. For now, though, he will have to wait and see if he is still in the running or if he will need to wait for another job. So will New Orleans Pelicans James Borrego, who had also interviewed with the team multiple times.

The Lakers have taken a slow and deliberate approach to this hire. They managed to keep their interest in Hurley hidden for weeks, and once it did get out, they made what Hurley described to ESPN as a “compelling case” for him to take over their team. By Monday night, they should know if that case was successful.

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