The Lakers now have to find a new team president and a new head coach.
Only days after Magic Johnson stepped down from his post as president of basketball operations, the Lakers fired Luke Walton, bringing a merciful end to his three-year run in Los Angeles. Walton wasn’t out of work long, though, as he has already agreed on a deal to become the next Kings coach, according to multiple reports.
The Lakers now start their coaching search in need of a candidate capable of cutting out the toxicity that invaded the locker room this past season. It also wouldn’t hurt if that candidate happened to have a solid relationship with LeBron James, who will be entering Year 2 of a four-year contract this fall.
Who will replace Walton in LA? Here are a few candidates likely to draw some interest.
Top Lakers coaching candidates
There aren’t many people who know James quite like Lue. The former Cavs coach compiled a 128-77 record over three seasons with LeBron, then was abruptly fired only six games into the 2018-19 campaign. He quickly took the reins from David Blatt in 2016 and led Cleveland to an improbable NBA Finals victory over the Warriors. (You may have heard a few 3-1 jokes about that.)
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Lue is already a “strong frontrunner” for the job, so don’t be surprised if Lue and LeBron are teaming up again soon.
Williams last held a head coaching position in 2015 with the Pelicans, but he has stayed busy, gaining valuable experience both in the Spurs front office and currently serving as a member of the 76ers coaching staff. He will be a sought-after candidate by multiple franchises, which comes as no surprise considering he is respected by players around the league, including James.
The Monty Williams candidacy is a serious one with the Lakers, league sources tell ESPN. He has history with LeBron James as a Team USA assistant and a successful run w/ Pelicans as a head coach. Ty Lue checks the boxes too: ex-Laker, championship coach, LeBron James-approved.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 12, 2019
The Lakers’ main competition for Williams could be the Kings. Sacramento holds Williams in “high regard,” according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, though with Walton now available, that could change the Kings’ list.
Kidd’s name has been lingering around the rumor mill. The Lakers reached out to the Hall of Fame point guard during the season to gauge his interest in becoming the head coach, according to The Athletic’s Frank Isola, though a team official disputed that report.
One reason why Kidd is in the race despite an unremarkable 183-190 record as coach of the Nets and Bucks: he’s got the LeBron bump. Back in 2013 when Kidd was hired by Brooklyn, James went out of his way to heap praise upon his former Olympic teammate.
“I think it’s amazing, honestly,” James said at the time. “J-Kidd is unbelievable, one of the best teammates I ever played with. On the ’08 Olympic team, he was one of the best friends I would have, on and off the floor. He’s a student of the game. His basketball IQ is crazy and I think it’s going to make it an easy transition for him to be a coach. It’s a great thing for him.”
Could Lakers fans be hearing “hand down, man down” at Staples Center more often? Jackson likely isn’t the top candidate, but he also has a LeBron connection. He is a Klutch Sports client like James, and after the Cavs fired Blatt in 2016, James’ camp reportedly wanted Jackson to take over.
Jackson is often derided for failing to unleash the Warriors like Steve Kerr did, but Kerr has given Jackson credit for establishing Golden State’s defensive foundation. Perhaps a no-nonsense, defense-first coach is exactly what the Lakers need after a sixth consecutive season without a playoff appearance.
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