We already know that former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was able to make quite the impression on Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the rest of the team’s interview contingent in his job interview this week. It sounds like he wasn’t the only one, as Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams also left a mark on the group that was interviewing him, and the feeling appears to be mutual.
According to Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times, the group that went to interview Williams in Philadelphia — including Buss, her brothers Jesse and Joey Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka, Linda and Kurt Rambis, and Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris — liked what Williams had to say during his interview, and he appreciated the amount of insight they gave him into their process:
The group found that Williams, whose connection to Lakers star LeBron James came when they were involved in with Team USA at the same time, was forthright and very likable during his interview. Williams liked that the Lakers’ group went over a lot of different things about the franchise.
The Lakers have competition for Williams, who interviewed on Friday in Toronto for the Phoenix Suns coaching job. The 76ers meet the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday.
Still, the Lakers reportedly didn’t offer Williams (or Lue) the job, and also didn’t give either a timetable for when they’re planning to make their hire, which is a somewhat bold strategy given that Williams clearly has other options, including staying with Philadelphia if he thinks he might have a shot at that opening if Brett Brown gets canned. This at least means Williams hasn’t stood so far out from the group that the Lakers are going to do whatever it takes to lock him in as their next head coach right way.
That also might be the right approach. The Lakers have to nail this hire, because unless they get it really, really wrong, they likely aren’t going to hire another head coach during the LeBron James era in L.A.
James only has two more guaranteed years on his deal, with a third year as a player option, and thus whoever the team picks will likely be the person that at the very least stewards James through the rest of his tenure in Los Angeles. If the Lakers whiff on this one, they risk not getting the most out of James and the rest of their roster, and having a disappointing ending to an initially promising period that couldn’t have gotten off to a more mediocre start.
If the Lakers go with Williams, they’ll be betting that his abilities as a league-renowned communicator are what they need to get their roster to come together, and that he’s both grown as an x’s and o’s coach while also trusting him to hire a strong staff to complement him. If the Lakers choose Lue, they’ll be gambling on his proven ability to build an effective offense around James — something that seemed like it was easy, until this year’s team proved it required at least a little thought — and hoping that he can build a staff to help cover for his own deficiencies.
Which person the Lakers will pick is obviously unknown right now, but it is worth noting that both Williams and Lue liked what they heard from the Lakers during their meetings, according to Turner:
The last two people the Lakers interviewed for their head-coaching vacancy — Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams on Thursday and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on Wednesday — were impressed by how thorough the Lakers’ contingent was during their conversations with both men, according to people familiar with the talks.
Now, on some level, yes, that’s what you have to say if you’re trying to get a job. Still, given all the consternation from fans over this current front office arrangement and who the team has been sending to meet with these candidates, it’s at least worth noting that they didn’t fall flat on their faces to the degree that Williams or Lue were no longer interested.
Yes, that might be faint praise, but it’s still worth acknowledging based on how apoplectic Lakers Twitter was about the makeup of this interview contingent. We’ll soon see if their choice in hire is worth being similarly sanguine about.