The Lakers’ decision to hire JJ Redick and how it shapes their future

The Lakers’ decision to hire JJ Redick and how it shapes their future
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Seven weeks after firing Darvin Ham, the Los Angeles Lakers chose their next coach on Thursday: JJ Redick, the 15-year NBA veteran turned podcaster and broadcaster, league sources with direct knowledge of the situation say Atletico. Redick is signing a four-year contract worth about $8 million per season with the Lakers, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Behind the scenes, the Lakers had been focusing on the 39-year-old Redick for the past four weeks, infatuated with his potential to become a coach for the present and future, beyond the next two seasons of LeBron James’ legendary career.

Redick had first interviewed vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka for the Lakers head coaching job for about two hours during the week of May 13 at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. Redick then entered the Lakers’ facility on June 15 to meet with Pelinka again, as well as owners Jeanie, Joey and Jesse Buss, the organization’s remaining key stakeholders.

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matchup described Redick as “impressive” during his visit to Los Angeles, diving deeply into his offensive and defensive philosophy and displaying his passion for the sport that foreshadowed a willingness to put himself through the countless hours of work for the modern coach.

He explained his decision-making process in terms of strategy, how analysis and empirical evidence would always guide his choices rather than preconceived notions or outdated beliefs. Redick described a system shaped around this roster, focusing on increasing Anthony Davis’ involvement, particularly late in games, and easing the constant ball-handling duties on James by using him more off the ball. Keeping James, who turns 40 in December, fresh throughout the regular season and into the playoffs will be key.

For these Lakers, Redick’s ability to access his stars like James and Davis may be perfect given the stature he can bring as a respected former player, but how he unlocks the rest of the roster and coaches from the top down remains crucial for work. Austin Reaves will certainly be part of the strong three-man attack for the Lakers under Redick, who will be pushed to develop players like Rui Hachimura, Max Christie and whoever the franchise drafts.

During his meetings with Pelinka and his visit with Lakers ownership, Redick showed promise, team sources said. But as with any rookie coach, the real tests will come during the adversities of training camp and the season, in managing relationships between players and in controlling the locker room.

Redick has had a meteoric media rise since retiring from his playing career in 2021, running his own podcast network, starting the “Mind the Game” show with James and serving as a color commentator during the NBA Finals, all while simultaneously chasing a head coaching job. Redick interviewed for the top coaching job of the Toronto Raptors in 2023 and the Charlotte Hornets this year. He has never coached professionally: his only coaching experience up to this point was with his son’s youth basketball team.

League sources knowledgeable about Redick’s mindset say he badly wants to make the leap to NBA head coach and embrace the challenges the chair brings as he believes it is the natural transition of his life in basketball.

As Redick watched these NBA playoffs, both as a commentator and spectator, he imagined how he would utilize a potential James/Davis-led roster. Just a few years after finishing his playing career, Redick has his next basketball challenge.

The Lakers have experienced some turbulence in their coaching search.

Much of the process consisted of Pelinka meeting with candidates alone off-site or virtually, not inside Lakers headquarters. Following his conversation with Redick, Pelinka met with Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego in Los Angeles on May 20. Several candidates — Boston’s Sam Cassell, Minnesota’s Micah Nori, Denver’s David Adelman and Miami’s Chris Quinn — conducted virtual meetings.

On May 29, Borrego became the first candidate to enter the Lakers’ facility to meet with Pelinka and ownership again.

In the days before and after Borrego’s second in-person visit, some Lakers stakeholders believed the focus of the head coaching search was centered on Redick. Given the lack of a hire based on league experience after Mike Budenholzer left for the Suns and the Clippers retained Ty Lue long-term with a five-year contract extension, league sources briefed on the matter say the chances of Redick have grown for the Lakers, a high -Maximum candidate is tasked with balancing winning and development and is allowed to coach through early mistakes.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Dan Hurley arrived. On June 6, ESPN reported that the coach of the back-to-back national champion UConn Huskies was the “target” of the Lakers’ search. Beyond Jeanie Buss and Pelinka, the pursuit was kept tight-lipped within the organization.

Only Pelinka and Jeanie Buss met Hurley when he and his wife Andrea arrived at the Lakers’ stadium on June 7.

Hurley left Los Angeles after being offered a six-year, $70 million contract, according to league sources familiar with the matter. He returned home to Connecticut to ponder his decision while the basketball world waited.

On June 10, he announced that he would remain with the Huskies. Hurley’s new contract with UConn is expected to make him the highest-paid coach in college basketball: six years and more than $50 million, league sources said.

Although the Lakers moved quickly to offer Hurley a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, several people within the Lakers organization and outside have questioned the overall genuineness of the search and if the franchise was used by Hurley to get more money to stay in Connecticut. Hurley’s situation was seen by a team source directly involved in the search as a Hail Mary attempt.

This much is clear, though: When it came to the Lakers’ final decision-maker, Jeanie Buss, team sources said she was very motivated to make Hurley their next coach and was genuinely disappointed when the effort failed.

Hurley himself told Dan Le Batard while making the media rounds that the Lakers’ interest began on June 5. He denied needing influence to get a raise at UConn on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” when asked about it, then later said the school’s collective name, image and likeness and Staff payments still had to be increased to enter the Lakers’ trial.

Just like that, Hurley exited the picture almost as quickly as he entered it.

Lakers brass met on June 11, the day after Hurley’s announcement, and ultimately went all in on their first-round pick in Redick, according to team and league sources. After meeting with the Lakers on June 15, Redick spoke by phone with Davis on Monday, a critical relationship for years to come, sources familiar with the situation said.

The decision to choose Redick came as the Lakers, led by Pelinka, prioritized Davis’ voice in the process and ensured he understood the shared vision. Other key players were in favor of the hiring, those sources said.

Los Angeles is confident that Redick will be the long-term coaching solution that has eluded the franchise for more than a decade.

Since Phil Jackson’s departure in the summer of 2011, the Lakers now have seven different coaches (eight if you count Bernie Bickerstaff’s five-game interim tenure in 2013). Winning doesn’t always equate to job security in Los Angeles: Frank Vogel won a championship in 2020 and was fired two years later. Ham reached the Western Conference final in 2023 and left a season later.

But the 39-year-old Redick ticks many of the boxes on the Lakers’ extensive checklist for their next coach. He has drawn internal comparisons to a young Pat Riley as a coaching prospect who went from playing in the broadcast booth to the coaching chair (though Riley spent two years as a Lakers assistant before taking the top job). Los Angeles is confident he can be Erik Spoelstra or Steve Kerr’s version of him, a culture creator who can grow with the franchise for more than a decade. However, there have been many more former players and rookie coaches who have failed to meet expectations than those who have, with the most recent examples including Steve Nash (Brooklyn), Derek Fisher (Knicks), Jason Kidd (Brooklyn) and Ham.

Multiple sources familiar with the matter said one person who has become a respected unofficial resource for the Lakers during the process is legendary former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose intimate knowledge of candidates, such as Redick and others, provides a lens into the culture that the organization wants. and the characteristics of a potential staff around the next coach. Krzyzewski’s history with the Lakers dates back to 2004, when Dr. Jerry Buss made a strong but unsuccessful bid to hire coach K. Redick who had played for Krzyzewski at Duke from 2002-2006.

Assistant coaching candidates for Redick’s staff will include former Trail Blazers head coach and recent assistant Scott Brooks, former Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, former Laker and current Dallas Mavericks assistant Jared Dudley and Cassell, according to league sources.

The timing of Redick’s hiring is noteworthy, as he will join Los Angeles’ roster planning ahead of the June 26-27 NBA Draft, the first day the Lakers will be able to trade their three tradeable picks (2024, ’29 and ’31). Furthermore, he places a leader ahead of James’ looming free agency. The 39-year-old superstar must decide whether to exercise his $51.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season by June 29. The Lakers are open to any contract structure that keeps James in Los Angeles, league sources said Atletico.

James’ decision, and how the Lakers reshape their roster around him and Davis, will determine Los Angeles’ direction next season. But Redick’s arrival is a significant gamble on an unproven coach: one the team is confident can bridge the gap to the next era of Lakers basketball.

(Top photo: Tyler Ross/NBAE via Getty Images)

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