Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are still reeling from the process that eventually led to Frank Vogel being hired as the team’s head coach. It’s extremely unlikely the full story will ever be told about how the team shifted from Monty Williams, to Tyronn Lue and then eventually to Vogel, but Marc Stein of New York Times tells just about as realistic a story of that path as you’ll hear.
Strap in, because this is a doozie:
Based on everything I’ve been told by multiple insiders with knowledge of the Lakers’ coaching search, I do not believe that they formally offered the job to Williams.
I think the Lakers made it known during the interview process that they would only be offering a short-term deal, maxing out at three years, to whichever candidate ultimately won the race between Williams and Lue.
But Williams, by all accounts, decided to go to Phoenix on a reported five-year deal before the race was finished.
Stein’s reporting here would refute a report a few days ago from Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN claiming both Williams and Lue had rejected offers from the Lakers.
Now, maybe this is as simple as phrasing, as Williams leaving for Phoenix when some in the Lakers reportedly really wanted him could be seen as preemptively rejecting the Lakers. Regardless, it does seem that no formal offer was made, and the only important thing is that Vogel is the team’s head coach at this point.
Still, it’s always noteworthy to figure out how we got here, and Stein added a few more details about that path:
As covered in last week’s newsletter, my sense is that the majority of team officials in the owner Jeanie Buss’ crowded cabinet of advisers preferred Tyronn Lue over Williams.
Word is Williams’ strongest supporters within the Lakers’ organization were Kurt and Linda Rambis, but L.A. ultimately decided to let Williams go off the board and offered the job to Lue. The Lakers did so never imagining that talks would collapse as abruptly as they did.
ESPN reported that Rambis had the strongest say in the organization when it came to hiring Frank Vogel — formerly a finalist for the Knicks’ coaching job when it went to Jeff Hornacek — after the Lue talks crumbled. I believe that, too.
Basically, it sounds like the Rambii created a big enough fuss to hold up the process of hiring Lue in the first place, then Lue was lowballed and rejected said offer, so the Lakers tried to regroup. Then, Kurt Rambis pushed hard for Vogel, who was willing to work under a three-year contract seeing as he had no other NBA head coaching options.
Here’s my question(s): Um, where’s Rob Pelinka? This is just in Stein’s report, but it’s illustrative that the general manager of the Lakers, you know, the guy supposed to be making these decisions, goes completely unnamed in this breakdown of the process.
Second question: How is it the Rambii have so much power that they at the very least could stall (if not override completely) “the majority of team officials,” as Stein puts it, who all preferred Lue to Williams? Okay, actually, we may have the answer to that already.
Third question: What exactly was Jeanie Buss doing while all this was going on? At some point, the person who controls the team trust and resides over everyone as team governor has to put their foot down and stomp out the chaos created by having so many cooks in the kitchen.
While hoping to get outright clarity on the inner-workings of a multi-billion-dollar corporate entity like the Lakers is probably unrealistic, it’s fair to wonder if even the people involved have any idea who has say over whom.
Pelinka was general manager under Magic Johnson and one would imagine would have a fairly loud voice in the room now that Johnson has left, except based on Stein’s description, the Rambii are capable of overriding him and potentially just about anyone else. And that’s before you factor in Phil Jackson, who apparently just strides in from time to time to impart his wisdom on how to run a team.
Given all the above chaos, honestly, it’s borderline miraculous the Lakers were able to hire a coach, and makes perfect sense that they bungled the Lue negotiations as badly as they did. Lord knows how they’re going to handle an offseason that forces everyone to focus on more than one thing at once.
Strap in, everyone. This doesn’t seem to be getting any prettier anytime soon.