Now that it appears Tyronn Lue will not be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team is continuing its search with a (somewhat) new batch of candidates. Although none of the names in the second round of interviews are as appealing as Lue, there is one that aggressively stands out from the rest — and not in a good way.
The Los Angeles front office has made a series of questionable decisions throughout this process, but none of them would be as disastrous as hiring Jason Kidd, in any capacity.
First of all, as our own Harrison Faigen outlined yesterday, the path of Kidd’s coaching history in the NBA has been slimy, starting with trying to engineer a front-office takeover in Brooklyn before making back-room deals to get a job in Milwaukee that was already taken. He hasn’t gotten any better since then. He made enemies throughout his tenure with the Bucks, needed a vote of confidence from his players to retain the job after only his second season, and was fired midway through year four.
While Luke Walton’s job security was in jeopardy earlier this year, Kidd openly campaigned for the position, despite it not actually being open. There is supposed to be a fraternity among NBA coaches, and Kidd has already violated that brotherhood multiple times.
When Kidd was actually interviewed to be head coach, it was reported that Jeanie Buss wasn’t happy with how he had conducted himself earlier, and he wasn’t a serious candidate. Yet, somehow, he ingratiated himself enough with the Lakers brass to the point that they had to have him as an assistant coach, and that may been one of several issues that led to Lue walking away. Any coach who weasels his way onto a staff despite the objections of the head man in charge is bound to be trouble. Lue knows this better than anyone, since Cleveland forced David Blatt to hire him 2014, and he replaced Blatt less than two years later. Even if that wasn’t his goal going into it, he knows how these things go, so why would he let the Lakers do it to him with a guy who we’ve already seen engage in two separate coups, and test the waters for a third on national TV?
Kidd also showed a strong affiliation towards players who were represented by his agency, Excel Sports. He acquired Michael Carter-Williams, an Excel client, in exchange for a highly-valued Lakers lottery pick. He drafted Rashad Vaughn, another Excel client, in 2015, and Vaughn is no longer in the league. The Bucks also reached for another Excel client with the tenth pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Thon Maker. Maker was traded to the Pistons after 2.5 years in Milwaukee.
Los Angeles claims to be trying to avoid the perception that LeBron James — and by extension, Rich Paul and Klutch Sports — controls the organization, but they’re allying the team with someone who has made this common practice.
All that noted, even if we set aside all of the off-court problems that Kidd potentially brings to whatever role the Lakers would put him in, the fact remains that he is not a good basketball coach.
He had a mildly successful season as a rookie head coach in Brooklyn, though he was mostly forced into playing small due to Brook Lopez suffering a foot injury. The most memorable moment from that year was Kidd telling Tyshawn Taylor to run into him so his drink would spill, and the Nets would get an extra timeout (he was later fined $50,000 for his innovation). Regardless, Kidd had a lineup with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, and only finished with a 6-seed.
Once he got to Milwaukee, Kidd continued to underwhelm with better talent. The Bucks initially surprised some teams by playing a high-pressure, swarming defense, but the rest of the league caught onto that quickly, and Kidd failed to adjust. A few passes easily carved up his team up, which meant that the Bucks surrendered a ton of shots at the rim, didn’t rebound the ball effectively, and had a generally below-average defense.
Mike Budenholzer, the current Milwaukee head coach, installed a simple drop coverage system that vaulted the Bucks to first in the league in defense, the league’s highest defensive-rebounding rate, and the fewest field-goal attempts at the rim. This all came in his first season with largely the same personnel that Kidd had.
Kidd also failed to institute a modern offense and stopped the Bucks as a whole from taking threes, despite the math suggesting otherwise. The Bucks have done nearly a full 180 this season without Kidd, embracing the 3-point line to the tune of 13.5 more points per game from downtown, though part of that stems from the addition of Brook Lopez.
When the going got tough in Milwaukee, Kidd displayed a consistent lack of accountability. He said the team fell short of expectations because it was too young, when Antetokounmpo was his only starter under 25. He had a poor relationship with Jabari Parker throughout his tenure, and though Parker’s talent is a bit overrated in the NBA, he still was a No. 2 overall pick for the Bucks and deserved to have a relationship with his head coach.
There have been multiple rumblings throughout the year about how improved the environment is in Milwaukee without Kidd. That comes after a playing career when he wasn’t always the easiest teammate to get along with. He has burned bridges throughout the league, which is readily apparent when you consider that his lead assistant at his last stop was Joe Prunty.
If Kidd thought his last team was too young to handle expectations, he has another thing coming in Los Angeles. And after seeing him waste the talents of Antetokounmpo by instituting poor spacing and offensive sets, Kidd shouldn’t be allowed the opportunity to coach LeBron James. It’s irresponsible to expect a coach with his reputation in coaching circles to be able to build a high-caliber staff of assistants.
Being a head coach is a supremely difficult job. It requires good people skills and an ability to foster strong relationships — that’s not Kidd. In Los Angeles, it requires an ability to handle the media and carefully choose your words — that’s also not Kidd. It also requires an understanding of the modern NBA game and an ability to adjust to personnel — once again, that doesn’t describe Kidd.
The Lakers haven’t done themselves any favors in this head coaching search. They’ve backed themselves into a corner of their own making due to their dilly-dallying and insane negotiation practices, and they frankly deserved to get rejected by Lue. But hiring a head coach whose former team had the best overall record in the NBA this year, and was the first organization to advance to the conference finals — their first such berth since 2001 — in their first full season without him? That is asking to be ridiculed again.
Kidd doesn’t have the temperament or the tactical acumen for this job. The rest of the league already knows that — and Los Angeles is running out of time to figure it out.