Replacing Luke: Potential Head Coaching Hires for the Lakers

Lakers
Dec 27, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and head coach Tyronn Lue during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers are currently at a crossroads in their franchise. They are still going through the process of possibly retooling their front office. While it is yet to be seen if they will retain their current executives, they will definitely need a head coach now that Luke Walton is gone. They still have LeBron James and a young core of players so nailing this hire is vital.

There have been reports of coaches the team will meet with regarding their head coaching vacancy so let’s take a look at who might land the gig.

Tyronn Lue

The former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach has obvious ties to the job with LeBron James on the roster and the two of them bringing home a championship in 2016. Lue’s tenure in Cleveland came to an abrupt end only six games last season after three seasons as head coach. In those seasons the Cavaliers, with James, he went 128-77 for a winning percentage of .624.

On the court, the Lue-led Cavaliers were incredibly efficient offensively and always rated as one of the top offenses in the league. The team would welcome his ability to coach an offense as they left a lot to be desired on that end of the floor last season. On the other side of the ball, the Cavaliers really struggled, they consistently had a bottom level defense. But it should be noted that the roster he had to work with didn’t contain much talent on that end, they didn’t have players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart to help as the Lakers would under Lue.

Unfortunately for Lue, he was fired after the team started 0-6 in their second post-LeBron era. However, he is certainly a leading candidate for the Lakers job and might beĀ the favorite to reunite with the Lakers superstar in Los Angeles.

Juwan Howard

Juwan Howard has been an assistant coach with the Miami Heat since retiring from the team in 2013. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience which might put him at a disadvantage when it comes to other candidates, but he does have connections to the team. Howard was a former college teammate with general manager Rob Pelinka at Michigan and he played alongside LeBron James during his stint with the Heat. Howard and James had a great relationship and he’s assumingly a guy that James would trust for the job.

Howard just wrapped up his sixth season as an assistant coach, all under Erik Spoelstra. Howard is mostly credited with his role in player development for the Heat, although he has also been an integral part of their defensive scheming. In terms of development, it would serve well to look at improvements made by Justise Winslow, who has become a legitimate point forward, and Josh Richardson, one of the most unheralded 3-and-D stars in the league. It’s clear that his players have the utmost respect for him.

Lakers
Apr 25, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) and head coach Monty Williams walk off the court after they were eliminated from the playoffs by the Golden State Warriors following game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Monty Williams

Monty Williams has had one of the more up-and-down coaching careers in recent memory. He’s been successful as a head coach and is widely respected around the league as a great locker room guy. He’s currently in his first season as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers after taking two years off from coaching due to his wife’s tragic death. Prior to that, he was the associate head coach in Oklahoma City, an assistant coach on Team USA, and a head coach with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans.

In Williams’ five years as head coach in New Orleans, the team made the Western Conference playoffs twice but went just 2-8 in those appearances. He accumulated a record of 173-221 for a winning percentage of .439. It is worth noting that in a few of those seasons he wasn’t given much to work with from a roster standpoint. His teams did however generally rank in the top half of the league defensively and that seems to be his calling card as a coach.

Williams, just like Lue and Howard, has worked with LeBron James before dating back to their time together with Team USA. And of course, his strong relationship with Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, both of whom he has coached, cannot be understated.

Darvin Ham

Ham has the same sort of appeal as Howard, minus a relationship with James but with the added bonus of being the lead assistant on the Milwaukee Bucks who had the best record in the NBA this season. At his previous stops with the Lakers (2011-2013) and Hawks (2013-2018), Ham has had more of a player development role.

Much like Howard, the former NBA player is loved by his players and can serve as a bridge between the coaching staff and the athletes. He’s not shy about protecting his players, something that Walton did as well and received a lot of respect for.

Ham’s name has appeared in the Cavaliers search for a coach but there has not been much smoke about him being a candidate for the Lakers job.

Ettore Messina

Like Ham, Messina has the benefit of having a connection to the Lakers, having served as an assistant on Mike Brown’s staff. The current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach has long been a candidate for open coaching positions across the NBA but has yet to secure a job leading a team of his own.

The Italian has had a 30-year coaching career but his only two stops in the NBA have been with the aforementioned teams. Messina may not be the ideal option from the perspective of relating to players, something that seems inherently important to James given his relationship with David Blatt in Cleveland. But he is a very well respected coach in the international community and from a strategic standpoint, could be the best option although his name has not appeared in any reports regarding the Lakers.

Becky Hammon

Another Spurs assistant, Hammon has long been thought of as a future head coach whether in the NBA or elsewhere. The former WNBA star became the second female assistant coach in the NBA in 2014 and has been highly regarded since, including by former Laker Pau Gasol who penned a very thoughtful piece about her acumen.

Hammon has previously interviewed to be an executive for the Bucks or be a head coach in the college ranks so it’s clear that she is highly regarded in the basketball world. Again, given that she would be in her first coaching job and given the importance of finding someone LeBron relates to and likes, it seems unlikely that Hammon will be a candidate. Then again, what better team that the Lakers, owned by the most powerful woman in the NBA, to hire the first female head coach.

Jason Kidd and Mark Jackson

No.

From the names that have been reported as candidates for the Lakers coaching gig it seems the team is targeting coaches who already have a relationship with LeBron James in some capacity. While James and Luke Walton didn’t have a bad relationship, at least publicly, the chemistry wasn’t abundantly clear so this would be a different approach.

Whoever the team decides to hire they will have essentially a blank slate and the ability to put their fingerprint on the team. The team is full of young talent and also has one of the best players of all-time and potentially more help on the way. Even with missing the playoffs this past season, they’re not that far from contention. This is a pivotal point in the franchise’s history, they can’t miss on this decision.

Author: Dillon Hiser

@dillonhiser

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