Report: Lakers looking for their next coach to be a ‘grinder’

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka reportedly wants a “grinder” to be the next head coach of the franchise.

“In Pelinka’s conversations with officials across the league, the term ‘grinder’ keeps coming up in the GM’s description of an important characteristic of the Lakers’ coach, sources said,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin wrote.

Pelinka and the Lakers moved on from head coach Darvin Ham after the Denver Nuggets knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs in five games in the first round this season. It was the second straight season that Denver ended Los Angeles’ playoff run.

Ham, who signed a four-year deal prior to the 2022-23 season, compiled a 90-74 record in the regular season and 9-12 mark in the playoffs in two seasons. While the Lakers made the playoffs in both of Ham’s campaigns as the leader of the franchise, they also needed to win in the play-in tournament to get there as the No. 7 seed in both seasons.

It’s unclear if Ham fit the term “grinder” in Pelinka’s eyes, but it is worth noting that the head coach made some excuses about poor play and injuries for the team during the 2023-24 season.

“It’s been extremely challenging,” Ham said. “Everyone that’s been in and out of the lineup. Being criticized for not having a consistent rotation when I don’t have consistent healthy bodies. The thing that frustrates me, and I love this job, I love the pressure that comes with it, I’ve always been calm in the midst of chaos … [But] common sense tends to go out the window when you talk about my job in particular.

“It’s amazing how people just skip that core part of having a consistency with your lineup is all predicated on health and performance. If you’re coaching a team and one of your starters is like 10 games in a row, just s—ting the bed, what are you going to do?”

The Lakers did lose key players such as Gabe Vincent, Christian Wood and Jarred Vanderbilt for large chunks of the 2023-24 season, but with LeBron James and Anthony Davis staying relatively healthy for the whole campaign, it was disappointing that the team failed to win a playoff series.

It was recently reported that former NBA player J.J. Redick and former Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego are names to monitor for the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy.

“The initial interview list is expected to include assistant candidates such as Miami’s Chris Quinn and New Orleans’ James Borrego, sources said,” Wojnarowski and McMenamin wrote.

In addition to that, they’ve been linked to Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Sean Sweeney. It’ll be interesting to see if any of those candidates fit the profile that Pelinka is looking for this offseason.

Los Angeles has had two head coaches over the last three seasons (Ham and Frank Vogel) and three head coaches since LeBron James joined the franchise for the 2018-19 season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.