NBA rumors: Lakers ‘intrigued’ with JJ Redick, but coaching search will be

When the Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham after only two years on the job, the easy assumption was that they would seek an experienced replacement. Ham was a first-time head coach when the Lakers hired him, and that move obviously didn’t work out. LeBron James is about to turn 40. This team may not have the time to develop a younger coach before James finally ages out of superstardom.

But many of the more experienced coaches they’ve been linked to have thus far proven unavailable. Former Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has taken over the Phoenix Suns. Current Los Angeles Clippers coach and former James collaborator Ty Lue and is still under contract, and his current employer is reportedly hoping to extend him. Current Dallas Mavericks head coach and former Lakers assistant Jason Kidd is still coaching in the playoffs, and the Mavericks signed him to a contract extension this week.

Instead, the name that keeps popping up in this Lakers search is the least-experienced coach in the running: ESPN analyst JJ Redick. According to ESPN’s Adrian WojnarowskiRedick is one of the names that the Lakers have been “drilling down on” and are “intrigued with,” and the front office has been making calls around the league trying to learn more about him as it continues this coaching search. Wojnarowski did not explicitly name Redick as the early favorite, and he noted that this is expected be a “wide-ranging and lengthy search,” but it’s hard to deny that the former sharpshooter has been the name most frequently mentioned in relation to this Lakers search.

Unless you count working with nine-year-olds, Redick has no coaching experience. He went straight from his 15-year playing career into a media role with ESPN. He has drawn widespread praise for his work there. He hosts The Old Man and the Three podcast, appears on studio shows and broadcasts games, and he makes a point of honing in minute, strategic details in ways that not all talking heads frequently do. Starting in March, he and James launched a podcast together called Mind the Game in which they discuss basketball primarily from an X’s and O’s perspective.

That relationship with James is a major selling point to the Lakers. In his 21-year NBA career, James has had eight head coaches. This hire will be his ninth. Coaching James is a high-pressure position, and considering his influence in the locker room and around the league, his stamp of approval would go a long way toward ensuring team-wide buy-in on any coach. That will be especially important for a coach without experience.

Of course, that lack of experience isn’t scaring away the rest of the league. Redick interviewed with the Toronto Raptors for their head-coaching job last offseason. He was a finalist for the Charlotte Hornets job this offseason as well before it went to Celtics assistant Charles Lee. Speaking of the Celtics, their head coach, Joe Mazzulla, attempted to hire Redick to his staff last offseason. He is viewed as a hot commodity in the coaching world, and whether it’s the Lakers or someone else, it seems like only a matter of time before someone hires him.

There aren’t many hires in recent NBA history that have come with no prior coaching experience. The few that do exist range from absolute successes to colossal failures.  The hope for any team hiring him is that he is more like Steve Kerr, who also took the path from broadcasting into coaching (though in fairness, he also worked in the front office for the Suns). There is a chance Redick is the next Derek Fisher or Steve Nash. That wide range of possible outcomes makes Redick the highest-risk and potentially the highest-reward candidate on the market. The Lakers took a similar risk with Ham two summers ago. Now, it seems as though they’re considering taking a bigger one with Redick.

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