The Los Angeles Lakers are set to hire Tyronn Lue as their next head coach, and if one thing is clear about him already, it’s that he wants to bring on a strong assistant coaching staff.
As Lue is finalizing his deal, there are reports that he’s trying to bring former Lakers advance scout — and previous Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic head coach — Frank Vogel on as his lead assistant. And back when Lue was still interviewing for the job, he was already trying to get former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau to be his lead assistant.
It doesn’t sound like the latter is going to happen, but according to Frank Isola of The Athletic, Lue wasn’t the only one trying to get Thibodeau to come to Los Angeles:
The reports of Lue wanting to add his former colleague in Boston, Tom Thibodeau, to his coaching staff are also true. LeBron, through intermediaries, has let it be known that Thibodeau would be a huge asset to have on the bench. LeBron’s close associates were gauging Thibodeau’s interest in becoming a top assistant two weeks ago. It would be similar to the role Mike Brown and Ron Adams serve under Steve Kerr in Golden State.
Two weeks ago is right around the time that it was reported that Lue was trying to add Thibodeau as well, so it would seem those tendrils were sent out in concert with James, and that this isn’t him trying to micromanage the coaching staff.
However, while Thibodeau would obviously be a phenomenal get for any assistant coaching staff, if it wasn’t clear already from the initial reports that he had rebuffed Lue’s interest, it would seem that James trying to get him didn’t sway Thibodeau to join the purple and gold either:
Thibodeau, however, is owed a lot of money from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the feeling is that he would prefer a head coaching job. Thibodeau has the resume and income to be patient. Plus, after dealing with an unstable management group in Minnesota, Thibodeau may be taking a wait-and-see approach with the “new-look” Lakers.
A person close to LeBron has denied that LeBron is pushing for any head coach or assistant coach which is in keeping with LeBron’s “I just work here” public posture. The same person was willing to acknowledge that LeBron has the “utmost respect” for Thibodeau.
The obvious takeaway from this is
that no one wants to play with LeBron (sorry, force of habit) that Thibodeau has too many rea$on$ to not join the staff than he has reasons do it. That’s probably why you see Lue/the Lakers going after Vogel now for the lead assistant role.
The other thing we can draw from this is that no matter how “sensitive” the Lakers are to the idea that James and his representatives are running the Lakers, or how many times James’ camp tries to project the narrative that they are taking a hands-off approach, the reality is that James is involved in the decision-making for the Lakers.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, either! The Lakers have a front office and ownership group that is totally inexperienced in the roles they’re taking on right now, and having one of the smartest basketball players to ever play give his input, or help them make decisions is arguably a positive development, and right in line with how the Lakers have historically ceded some level of authority to their stars (something all NBA franchises do to some degree).
It sounds like James’ influence wasn’t enough to get the Thibodeau idea over the finish line, but the Lakers can use all the help they can get as they try to recover from one of their most disappointing seasons ever. If James can collaboratively work with the team to help them rebuild in any way, the Lakers should be taking advantage of it — even if both sides are going to try to continue to spin the narrative that James is keeping his hands off because of the negative perception fans (and possibly other players) seem to potentially have about the idea of him running the team. But as long as he’s not running things, and is just one of many voices, this appears to be a pretty unassailable positive.