After a season full of clanks and months of outcry from the fanbase, the Los Angeles Lakers are finally set to hire a shooting coach, and it’s a familiar face. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, former Lakers guard Mike Penberthy will be the latest addition to Frank Vogel’s coaching staff:
Lakers are hiring a former guard from the Kobe-Shaq days, Mike Penberthy, as a shooting coach, according to league sources. “Good to be back,” Penberthy told ESPN. Penberthy worked for the Pelicans last season in the same role.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 20, 2019
The Lakers have turned over most of their roster, but the team shot the second-worst percentage in the NBA on both threes and free-throws last season, so hiring a shooting coach is probably a good step in the right direction.
And despite his middle name being Dunkin, it was shooting Penberthy was best known for during his short NBA career. The 6’3 guard shot 39.6 percent from behind the arc and 90.3 percent from the free-throw line over 53 games during the 2000-01 season before only appearing in three games the next season and heading overseas for the next five years.
Prior to being hired as a shooting coach for the Pelicans, Penberthy served in the same role for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2014-15 season before returning to work as a private shooting coach for a few years until New Orleans hired him last season. In Minnesota he was referred to as “The Shot Whisperer,” according to Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee.
In that same story linked above, Penberthy outlined his journey and his philosophies on coaching shooters, as well as what fundamentals he thinks are key to shooting well. Lakers fans will probably want to read the whole thing, but this passage seemed particularly relevant:
Penberthy believes “90 percent” of shooting is mental rather than physical, meaning practically anyone can learn to become a good shooter if he has a solid foundation and is willing to put in the work.
“It has to be an obsession. You’ve got to hate missing. You’ve got to be obsessed with it,” he said. “I was obsessed with the sound of the swish. That’s what I wanted to hear. I wouldn’t leave the gym until I made 10 swishes in a row. I couldn’t stand hitting the rim, not just missing. It becomes an obsession.
“I always say, ‘I create addicts.’ My guys are addicted to swishes. They just want to hear that thing snap. I hate gyms where the nets are long because it doesn’t make that snap. It’s more of a whooshing sound, which drives me nuts. I want that (net) to pop. I want to hear that sound.”
We already knew that several players on this Lakers team were committed to improving as shooters this summer, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was already working with Chris Matthews (better known by his nickname of “Lethal Shooter”) last season. Kyle Kuzma as well as new Laker Anthony Davis have started working with Matthews as well.
Now the Lakers have a specialist in this area in-house to be called upon for any of their players at any time during the season. L.A. was far from the only team without a shooting coach last year, but making moves like this and hiring specialists for their coaching staff is a way to try and improve the team that isn’t restricted by a salary cap. It’s unknown if this will work, but hiring a shooting coach is a way for the Lakers to flex their big-market muscle, and an improvement on their prior approach.