Dan Hurley Disaster Shows Lakers’ Behind-The-Scenes Mess

Dan Hurley Disaster Shows Lakers’ Behind-The-Scenes Mess article feature image

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Pictured: Dan Hurley

The Los Angeles Lakers wanted to obtain the stars with a half-effort reach in their coaching search. Now, they're forced to reckon with the fallout.

On Monday, UConn coach Dan Hurley turned down an offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers that was well short of the reported $100 million. Instead, Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers' offer would have only made Hurley one of the "six highest-paid coaches" in the NBA.

BREAKING: Connecticut’s Dan Hurley has turned down the Los Angeles Lakers’ six-year, $70 million offer and will return to chase a third straight national title, sources tell ESPN. LA would’ve made him one of NBA’s six highest paid coaches. pic.twitter.com/hEXo3o00SR

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 10, 2024

In a vacuum, this news is not particularly sensational. The Lakers made a strong offer for Hurley to make the jump to the NBA, it was lower than reported and lower than five other coaches, and Hurley declined to return to UConn and pursue a three-peat.

However, within the context of the Lakers past and present, well, it's not a great look.

First off, the Lakers pursued Tyronn Lue in 2019 and reportedly the offer "insulted" Lue. So, the Lakers now have two marquee coaching names who did not wind up with the job because of the money offered. Are the Lakers trying to get premium coaches on discount because of the prestige of coaching the league's most famous franchise? Is this Lakers exceptionalism getting in the way of making the best possible hire?

(Not that Hurley would absolutely be the best possible hire as the history of college coaches in the NBA is not good. Billy Donovan won two NCAA titles and his NBA career would be considered a relative "win" compared to most who make the jump.)

Then there's the LeBron factor.

JJ Redick was the front runner and odds-on favorite for weeks, despite not having done a formal interview for the job due to his announcing duties in the Finals. With James and Redick tied by their "Mind The Game" podcast, it was easy to see a connection between the two despite the usual reports that James has nothing to do with a decision that he clearly will have something to do with.

But now Redick will be the second choice, and while he might still take the job if offered, it creates a little confusion.

One league insider told Action Network this week that they were very interested to see how the Hurley pursuit would play out.

"This seems, from the outside, like a power play from Lakers ownership and the front office to play against LeBron's influence. LeBron, with that player option this summer, has a lot of power. That's been a sore point for years going back to the [Russell] Westbrook debacle," the insider said.

Two league sources suggested this week that Klutch Sports, which represents both James and Anthony Davis, was "not thrilled" with being left in the dark when Hurley suddenly emerged as "the Lakers' top choice from the beginning of the search." The idea was not that Klutch wanted "their guy" hired, but that the abrupt switcheroo caused more tension in an ongoing power struggle that's been at an uneasy alliance for some time.

That said, no one expects the coaching search to impact James' decision to eventually return to the Lakers as a free agent on a huge-money deal to end his career.

But the question now becomes whether Redick still wants the job, and if the Lakers will just pivot to him. The Lakers made it clear through Wojnarowski's reporting that Hurley was their No.1 target from the beginning. So, why did so many outlets report that Redick was the frontrunner? Why did the Lakers keep Hurley so close to the vest? And if the answer is that they did so to try and pull off the coup of getting an agreement with him, then missing out is doubly painful.

In short: this is not a great look for the Lakers.

The other candidates beyond Redick don't have the requisite splash, even if they have better resumes and credentials. Former Hornets coach James Borrego has 13 years of assistant and head coaching experience. Sam Cassell has been an assistant for over a decade after a long career in the NBA.

The best answer might be Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, who has been a great assistant and was a really good head coach in Brooklyn before the Kyrie Irving/Kevin Durant regime detonated everything that had been built there.

But for the Lakers, trying to both end the LeBron James era with requisite dignity, and transition to whatever is left of the Anthony Davis era while trying to build for the future, they need a name that carries the gravitas of "head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers."

Redick is a former player and a well-respected media personality. There are a lot of reasons to think his creativity could work, and at least in the beginning, you can believe he would have the all-important support and ear of James.

Ultimately, none of this may matter. The Lakers will still have James somehow playing at an elite level at age 40, Davis, and can look to add a third star this summer. The drama of both James' final career arc and, potentially, the subplot of Bronny James' development should the Lakers draft him as part of the agreement for LeBron to stay, will be messy. They'll be a good team and, if they land Donovan Mitchell for three pretty bad picks and their underwhelming role players, potentially an elite one.

But once the James era ends, there will be an aftermath with an aging Davis and no one to take the wheels of the franchise. (It is simply not fair to expect that of Bronny, who is currently projected as a second-rounder.) The Lakers' coaching job looks great for 1-2 years and then will look rough, but simply by virtue of having coached the Lakers, whoever takes the job will be hirable.

What we've really learned from the Hurley drama is that the Lakers' job is an exciting job, not the best-paying job and an interesting job. But it's also not a great job.

So come on down, backup choices! The line forms to the left.

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Nick Sterling
Jun 20, 2024 UTC