Inside the Lakers’ hunt to fill JJ Redick’s coaching staff as initial targets become increasingly unlikely

Anthony Irwin
7 Min Read
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

According to sources close to the situation and league sources, the Los Angeles Lakers are unlikely to hire James Borrego, Jared Dudley, Terry Stotts or Sam Cassell.

Phil Handy is also unlikely. The Lakers are more open to bringing him back, but sources say he was not at all happy with not being considered for the head coach position the last two opportunities.

Sources say the Lakers have moved on to candidates lower on their initial list like Jacque Vaughn and Dwane Casey, while still keeping Scott Brooks in mind as they look to surround new head coach JJ Redick with as much experience as they can find.

Borrego was considered the heavy favorite to land the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching gig, league sources say, until Dan Gilbert stepped in at the eleventh hour and overruled his front office to hire Kenny Atkinson. Borrego, having missed out on the Lakers and Cavaliers jobs, turned his attention to the Detroit Pistons, but decided to pull his name from the running and is going to remain with the New Orleans Pelicans as associate head coach, sources say.

Dudley is a valued member of the Dallas Mavericks coaching staff that helped that team reach the Western Conference Finals. Sean Sweeney has a real shot at Detroit’s head coaching job, sources say, and if he lands there, Dudley would be in line for a promotion. Even if Sweeney returns, it’s likely Dudley remains in Dallas, which is considered a more stable job than the Lakers’ right now.

Cassell is also in line for a promotion in Boston with Charles Lee leaving to coach the Charlotte Hornets and Jeff Van Gundy departing to be Tyronn Lue’s lead assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers. Cassell would become the lead assistant to Joe Mazzulla in Boston coming off a championship season and will likely be one of the most sought after head coaching candidates next season.

ESPN reported the Lakers reached out to Casey, who is currently a front office advisor in Detroit. Sources say Casey has already turned down an offer to be the lead assistant under Billy Donovan with the Chicago Bulls. Los Angeles would hope he changes his stance to this point and would love to have him as Redick’s lead assistant.

Stotts was offered a job on both Frank Vogel’s and Darvin Ham’s coaching staffs, sources say, but rebuffed the Lakers on both occasions. Pelinka may try again, but it seems fairly unlikely Stotts would consider the third time a charm.

Brooks is still on the table and sources say the Lakers like his experience working with superstar talent in the past. Rob Pelinka and Redick set out to hopefully land at least two former head coaches on his staff. Right now, the likeliest candidates in that regard appear to be Vaughn, Casey and Brooks.

Rajon Rondo has also come up as a possibility for Redick’s staff, but sources say the Lakers are split on him internally. He can be a flammable personality and had legal issues that would come with him, but LeBron James and Anthony Davis would both welcome his voice back in the locker room.

Sources also say that, should Chris Paul become a free agent, the Lakers would be very interested. There’s no love lost between Paul and Rondo, though, and while both are considered professional enough to work together, there are people in the Lakers organization who would rather not have their rookie coach have to worry about that relationship on top of everything else that comes with learning on the fly.

Sources have said that perhaps Miles Simon and Greg St. Jean could return to the organization this offseason. Both served under Vogel during his tenure. Simon also worked with Luke Walton’s coaching staff and coached the South Bay Lakers. Given the franchise’s focus on development, Simon especially makes a lot of sense.

The Lakers have faced two major hurdles in convincing elite assistant coaches to come to L.A.: First, they don’t have the best reputation for paying wages commensurate with the increased cost of living in Southern California. Compared to most other organizations, the Lakers are considered below average in this regard.

Another major factor in this process has been their recent history with head coaches. Redick is the seventh head coach in the 13 years since Phil Jackson manned the sidelines. Mike Brown is on the record saying he regrets taking the Lakers gig back when he did.

“If I could do it again,” Brown said in an interview with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes on the “All the Smoke” podcast, “I probably wouldn’t.”

Assistant coaches tend to last as long as their head coaches. There are certainly exceptions, but that’s the standard operating procedure. So, if an assistant coach feels safe and secure in one spot, he or she is unlikely to jump ship to a more volatile situation, and few situations have been less predictable than the Lakers.’

Vogel was fired two seasons after winning a championship. Ham was fired a year after making the Western Conference Finals. If success isn’t enough to secure a longer-term future, then what is?

Some league sources point to the ambiguous roles at the top of the organization for why the Lakers can’t stick to one direction.

Pelinka is the vice president of basketball operations and general manager, but he fields input from Jeanie Buss, Linda Rambis, Kurt Rambis and Tim Harris on major basketball decisions. Whose voice holds the most weight seems to vary.

“If you aren’t nice to Linda and Jeanie, you aren’t going to last,” said an Eastern Conference executive. “They just aren’t run like the multi-billion-dollar franchise that they are. Until that gets figured out, they’re going to keep running through coaches. Look at how the Vogel and Redick hiring processes went. Does that seem stable to you?”

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Anthony has spent the last decade-plus covering the Lakers either in written, audio or video form. He has written previously on the TrueHoop Network, Fansided and SB Nation. He founded Locked on Lakers, currently hosts Lakers Lounge and produces other podcasts for Audacy and 247Sports. His latest venture has been news breaking, which he looks forward to doing for Lakers Daily.