Monday, June 17, 2024
spot_img

Lakers get publicly embarrassed by Dan Hurley and show the NBA they don’t really have a plan

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers didn’t just lose their man Monday when Dan Hurley turned down their offer to be the team’s head coach. They also seem to have lost the thread.

That the UConn coach turned down the Lakers reported six-year, $70 million offer is not on its face a shock. Hurley has a chance to chase a third straight NCAA championship, a feat not accomplished since John Wooden 50 years ago. The Lakers job may also have been a poisoned chalice — all the glitz and purple-and-gold glamor on the outside, but something much trickier to navigate once ensconced in the actual job.

And, related and connected to the next point, there’s no guarantee a hard-charging, no-NBA-experience hire like Hurley would fit well with LeBron James. The King’s exacting standards, particular view of how his teams should operate and preference to be a partner with a head coach rather than a subordinate would have been interesting to see with Hurley, to say the least.

No, the real surprise here is that the Lakers do not seem to know what they’re doing or whom, exactly, they’d like to become.

Let’s start with the embarrassment of chasing a real gamble — and Hurley was just that — before being spurned in such a public, slow-moving manner. It makes the Lakers look small. It provides a sheen of amateurism. It begs the question why they’d put themselves out there like that for a college coach who didn’t want the job.

Hurley very well may have been a huge success in Los Angeles. He is, obviously, a proven winner. Scouts and front-office personnel who have scouted UConn’s draft prospects have been impressed with the tactical level of those teams, particularly on the offensive end. Maybe Hurley would have made that precarious leap from the heights of college basketball to the much more complicated terrain of NBA head coaching with rare acumen.

A few have done it successfully — Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan are the list — but the past does not always predict the future. And the longer list of failed college head coaches at the NBA level left many in Boston at Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, and colleagues in NBA offices around the country, skeptical.

It’s one thing to be turned down publicly. It’s another to be the Lakers — the storied Lakers — and have a college coach, any college coach, drag things out, announce he’ll render his judgment in a day, then say, in effect, I can do better.

Think how JJ Redick must feel now. The ESPN broadcaster, former player and not-so-long-ago supposed top candidate to be LeBron’s next head coach is not exactly renowned for his small ego. This must have stung — a public courtship of someone else, out of the blue, after giving off I’ll-confirm-my-new-head-coaching-gig vibes on his podcast in what felt like 30 seconds before Hurley’s emergence.

And having to go on national television every few nights and pretend you hadn’t just been dumped for someone else.

Same for James Borrego, the current New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach. Sources believe he could be offered the Cleveland Cavaliers job in the next week, and he, too, was left in a strange limbo-meets-rejection over the past few days.

Same for all the candidates — those with actual NBA experience — forced to watch the Lakers’ failed full-court press with Hurley.

But the biggest issue here, and the most alarming sign that this organization doesn’t have a real plan, is the fact its two strongest candidates could not have been more different. 

Hurley would have been an investment in a vision of the Lakers playing a longer game: Player development, looking toward a post-LeBron reality (the 39-year-old has a player option this summer he’s largely expected to decline), maybe turning what will be access to three first-round picks later this month into the groundwork in the years ahead of a team imbued with youth instead of fodder for a trade.

Redick would signal a very different plan: A focus on LeBron’s waning years and the hope and plan he remains a Laker for them (the two are, after all, podcast partners), an emphasis on competing in the short term perhaps at the expense of what’s down the road, likely trading those three first-round picks for a player like Trae Young or Donovan Mitchell, and going for one last blast of glory with a LeBron-Anthony Davis tandem.

Those are very different visions, and bouncing from Redick to Hurley and, now, perhaps back again to Redick begs the question: Do the Lakers have a concrete plan?

Do they even know what they’re doing?

Well-run organizations decide on a vision, craft a plan and execute it accordingly, from the players they covet to the kind of head coaches they seek. What Houston has done, for example, to rebuild, is a vastly different plan than what the Mavs did to try and maximize this Luka-Kyrie window. 

The plan in Orlando is not even remotely the same as what Phoenix requires with its rapidly closing title window, which is why the Suns just paid Mike Budenholzer big-time money. Winning now is not the same thing as operating on a multi-year timeline, and, depending on the approach, you require different players and different coaches to do so.

These are tricky questions and considerations for L.A. On the one hand, LeBron is still LeBron, despite his age, and the Lakers have a well-honored history of leaning into its stars, even in their later years. Talking yourself into running it back with LeBron James can make sense. On the other hand, the West is going to be a minefield in the years ahead. A rebuild, with an eye toward a few years from now and a plan to build something lasting, if time consuming, also has its merits.

The Lakers seem instead to be operating as if hiring an NBA head coach is like scrolling through Netflix for a movie on a Friday night. A “let’s just see what grabs us” isn’t exactly a sound way to run an NBA organization.

There are consequences for this kind of slipshod, public, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks approach. 

Consider this: Now that Hurley has publicly turned down the Lakers, what must you offer to get a candidate who can both win and, as important in Los Angeles, win the press conference as a big enough “name.”

And can L.A. really afford, now, to have the unlikely but not impossible scenario unfold in which LeBron decides to go somewhere else?

Probably not. Which LeBron surely knows, a fact that offers him plenty of leverage. 

It’s quite possible LeBron will have an even firmer say in who gets the gig, and that he and his new coach will push aggressively to trade those three first-rounders for another star in an effort to win now.

That’s fine as a well-thought-out plan. It’s not as the unintended consequences of getting publicly embarrassed by Hurley.

The Lakers chased a shocker in going after UConn’s man. But having been turned down by him, the biggest surprise of all might be that the team he ultimately passed on has no real plan — nor any idea what, exactly, its vision is to win the days that follow.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.