The Lakers firing of Frank Vogel, no matter how poorly it was handled, was not an unexpected move. It was merely a formality. Unsurprisingly then, the franchise already has eyes on the future and who could next lead the team.
While Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that there were no clear frontrunners, Shams Charania of The Athletic — who is far more connected to Klutch Sports — reported a pair of intriguing names on Monday morning: Toronto’s Nick Nurse and Michigan’s Juwan Howard.
The Lakers are expected to fire head coach Frank Vogel, sources tell The Athletic. Among the franchise’s top targets for the position, multiple sources say, is Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
Nurse, who led the Raptors to a championship in 2019, signed a multiyear contract extension in 2020 and has two years left on his deal. It’s unclear whether he will be attainable or whether he would have interest, but the Lakers are hoping the former Coach of the Year is an option with the allure of coaching James and Davis and the appeal of the Los Angeles market. To acquire Nurse, the Lakers would need to receive permission from the Raptors and likely engage them on a prospective trade. Over the next several weeks, expect several other candidates to emerge, including University of Michigan coach Juwan Howard, who interviewed for the opening in 2019.
The obvious question of why would Nurse be interested in leaving a successful franchise in the Raptors to come to one in much worse shape in the Lakers. And the answer to that (at least in part) is that Nurse is a Klutch client, the same agency that represents Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
It’d be hard to imagine that alone would be enough to convince him to leave Toronto and come to Los Angeles, but it’s definitely enough to get a foot in the door. What happens from there remains to be seen, but it makes sense that the Lakers are targeting him.
Nurse has blossomed into one of the best young coaches in the league after guiding Toronto to the title. While the seasons since have progressively gotten worse for the Raptors until returning to the playoffs this year, Nurse has maintained his spot as a respected head coach.
So respected, in fact, that when Toronto negotiated an extension with him, it made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. Prying him away from Toronto would likely come at a hefty price both in terms of paying him as well as compensating the Raptors, likely in the form of draft picks. That latter aspect could be the biggest hold-up as the Lakers will need all the draft capital possible to get off Russell Westbrook’s deal this summer.
Ultimately, there may not be a better coach linked to the Lakers this offseason, but it doesn’t make Nurse particularly attainable.
The other name mentioned by Charania is a familiar one for both Lakers fans and the front office in Howard. For one, he’s a former Fab Five teammate of Rob Pelinka, which gets much more than a foot in the door. He was also a teammate in Miami of LeBron James, one that James highly respected.
Howard is also a candidate the Lakers interviewed in 2019 for the team’s head coach opening prior to landing on Vogel. Not long after interviewing with the Lakers, Howard landed a head coaching job with Michigan, where he has led the Wolverines to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in the last two seasons.
So, in short, Howard has plenty of connections to the Lakers are aplenty, and now has head coaching experience. He would be an intriguing candidate, but a far more unproven one than Nurse and likely many other candidates. But there also may not be a candidate more closely tied to LeBron, if the franchise is looking to keep him around past next season.
We’ll see where they ultimately go, but the franchise is assembling an expansive list of names so far at the very least.