Report: Lakers seen as ‘skeleton crew’ that doesn’t provide coaches with proper resources

Anthony Irwin
6 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers are reeling after Dan Hurley spurned them to remain at the University of Connecticut. Sources say the organization has been hit hard by his decision and the process of hiring a head coach has taken a hard turn into chaos with the NBA draft mere weeks away.

Rob Pelinka finds himself in a familiar spot, needing to recover after not acquiring his primary target. Previously, Kawhi Leonard passed on signing to instead join the Los Angeles Clippers. Tyronn Lue turned down what he considered a lowball offer from the Lakers and also eventually walked across the hall to coach the Clippers.

It’s actually pretty extraordinary that Pelinka now has both the Lue fiasco on his resume and now gets to add this latest disappointment to it. Not many executives would survive one such public humiliation, let alone two. Pelinka does have the 2020 championship to point to in between those failures, but this is a pretty daunting hit to his reputation around the league.

For what it’s worth, sources say it’s unlikely this increases the temperature on his seat. The Lakers’ focus is still solely on finding a new coach, with the front office unlikely to be altered.

In terms of that search for Darvin Ham’s replacement, which has now run for longer than a month, sources close to the situation say it’s almost back to square one. At one point, the Lakers had zeroed in on JJ Redick, but those talks have cooled considerably while the Lakers pursued Hurley.

From Redick’s perspective, he’s very clearly going to feel like Plan B, and the Lakers, per sources, were not thrilled with having to wait until after the NBA Finals to have a head coach.

Talks can always resume and that temperature could pick back up, but it’s not nearly as simple as moving back to Redick after Hurley decided to stay.

James Borrego’s name has consistently been mentioned for the Lakers gig, but mostly as a desperation choice if things don’t pan out elsewhere. There had been some talk around the league that Borrego was the leading candidate for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but with the Lakers gig now a possibility, he may wait for clarity in L.A. before reaching an agreement in Cleveland. Sources also say Borrego has the support of Anthony Davis, given their brief time together in New Orleans.

Sam Cassell was also under consideration before the Hurley mess and could resurface as a possibility in L.A. At the very least, with Charles Lee heading to Charlotte after the Finals, Cassell is likely in line for a promotion and pay raise, so the Lakers will have competition for his services.

Regardless, one major takeaway from how this played out is a hit to the Lakers’ reputation in coaching circles. Sources say the Lakers are seen as a skeleton crew that does not provide its coaches with proper resources.

“It just isn’t a good job,” one NBA assistant coach said. “They negotiate as if it’s some grand honor to coach the Lakers, but the reality is you’re looking at a couple years before you’re going to get scapegoated. That’s obviously the case with most coaches, but the Lakers in particular don’t seem to value the position.”

While all this has gone on, LeBron James has watched from afar with a major decision of his own this summer. He could opt out and become a free agent and at this point, no one would hold it against him. He brought one championship to L.A. during his tenure, and the Lakers simply haven’t shown they are capable of functioning at a consistently high level.

Sources close to the Lakers say they are still confident James will retire a Laker, but if his focus is winning a championship before he calls it quits, it’s hard to envision that happening given the current state of affairs on Pelinka’s watch.

So the Lakers will try to rebound and hope to have a coach in place in short order. Perhaps, as they did with Frank Vogel, they’ll find someone who understands and rises to the situation. But it can’t be understated how tough a blow this is for the Lakers.

While their offer was not as overwhelming as sources thought it would be, it still would’ve made Hurley the sixth-highest paid coach in the NBA as a rookie. They felt they made a compelling offer, but in the end, Hurley returned to the college ranks.

Now, the Lakers will try to pick up the pieces but have real work to do to repair their reputation around the league.

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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.