The focus for the Lakers, after the official announcement of the firing of Frank Vogel on Monday, will be on finding a new head coach to succeed him. Names have already begun to leak out, but the Lakers’ actions in how they handled parting ways with Vogel could have some lasting implications as they begin their search.
And speaking of Vogel, in one of his final interviews as Lakers head coach, the now-former Lakers coach talked about the Lakers rosters and the many shortcomings they had, particularly on the defensive end, quotes that feel a bit more noteworthy now that he’s gone (and likely knew he was on the way out).
Let’s take a look at some of the notable quotes and reports.
LeBron and AD want Nick Nurse
Likely the most intriguing and one of the best options on the market for the Lakers right now is current Raptors coach Nick Nurse. The title-winning coach is a Klutch Sports Group client and Phil Jackson disciple, meaning he might be just the man to unite the Buss faction — who Jackson remains “incredibly influential” with — and Klutch faction as they grapple over the next direction for the franchise.
For now, it’s unclear if that will be enough to persuade him to come to LA but it’s clear, according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times, he is a preferred choice for LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Nurse, who led the Raptors to the NBA championship in 2019, also has a few years left on his deal and no one from around the league thinks Toronto will let him leave. Nurse signed a multiyear contract extension in 2020 with two years still remaining on his current deal.
As one person with knowledge of the situation said, “there hasn’t been anything substantiated by way of any discussion from any parties.”
Nurse is represented by Klutch Sports, which also represents Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom have told friends that they like how Nurse coaches.
Nurse would, unquestionably, be an upgrade even for how underrated Vogel was by too many Laker fans. After leading Toronto to a title with Kawhi Leonard, Nurse has overseen a rebuild for the franchise while remaining competitive. Eventually, with a new core, Nurse has the Raptors back in the playoffs this season.
He’s not the only potential candidate that LeBron — and possibly AD — are interested in. Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson is another coach that James is “enthused” by but, for a number of reasons our own Harrison Faigen outlined, is probably one that won’t get serious interest from the Lakers.
Realistically, there would be only a handful of options available that would be better options for the Lakers than Nurse across the whole league, and if hiring him is in any way realistic, the Lakers should jump at the opportunity.
Lakers offended other coaches with the way they handled Frank Vogel
The Lakers’ handling of firing Vogel, even if it was the worst-kept secret in the league, could not have been more embarrassing. It led to Malik Monk and Austin Reaves being forced to field questions about a report of his firing following Sunday’s win in Denver, and led to the same happening a day later during LeBron’s exit interview before the team formally announced it later on Monday morning.
From the moment he was given a one-year extension last summer, the Lakers have made it clear Vogel was on the chopping block, then proceeded to flirt with firing him all season long. Unsurprisingly, also according to Turner, that hasn’t left a great impression on other potential coaches, including one notable candidate we already know they are interested in: Utah’s Quin Snyder.
Snyder, who is known for having very good offensive sets and a solid defensive foundation, has led the Jazz to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. He was an assistant with the Lakers while on the staff of coach Mike Brown in 2011-2012. Not only is Snyder under contract with the Jazz for at least one more season, people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said he has become less interested in the Lakers’ job because of how the Vogel firing was handled.
During the season, the front office’s absurdity perhaps peaked when vaguely powerful executive Kurt Rambis sat in on a pre-game coach’s meeting. On Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added during a television appearance that, again unsurprisingly, coaching candidates don’t love the idea of impromptu Rambis appearances!
“There’s certainly an assistant coaching pool out there of significant candidates, but this is an L.A. team that is trying to win a championship in this window with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and L.A. is going to have to take a very hard look at what they’re offering in terms of not just money and years, but assistant coaches salaries and autonomy.
“How much voice does the new head coach have in how things run in L.A.? Is that head coach going to be open to having front office executives in their coaching meetings, which is what has gone on in the Frank Vogel regime. That is certainly a nonstarter for a lot of coaches in this league. So I think for L.A. right now, it’s still the Lakers, there is still an aura about that job, but there is still a reality that the Lakers have to be willing as an organization to the next head coach, and that’s also going to include years and money, things they didn’t offer the last time this job was open.”
If the Lakers actually want to hire the best candidates, there’s going to have to be some assurances that the front office won’t be meddling in decisions made by the coaching staff, promises I’m not entirely sure Pelinka and Rambis will be comfortable making. And even then, it might be too late, as actions speak louder than words.
Frank Vogel admitted that the Lakers didn’t have good defensive players this year
Even despite being left out to dry, Vogel was mostly as diplomatic as ever as a head coach. Despite being handed a... subpar roster, Vogel rarely used that as an excuse. But in his last exclusive interview before his firing, Vogel admitted to Bill Oram of The Athletic that the team had an imbalanced roster between offensive and defensive talent.
“The nature of how our offensive pieces fit together didn’t allow us to play with a defensive size and positional size that I typically like to have to give us that type of defensive success,” Vogel said. “So there were a lot more smaller lineups to open up the floor because of how our offensive pieces fit. Trying to make the offense work compromised our defense directly.”
The Lakers found plenty of success this season offensively, particularly when they went small with LeBron James at center. But, due to a complete lack of defensive options on the roster, they never had enough defense to hang on that end of the court while playing those groups, and Vogel said as much to Oram.
“The habit building, there was a lot to make up with,” Vogel said. “Guys that did not have great defensive habits. You know what I mean? So you coach it on a daily basis and push them to be accountable. But there was just a lot to overcome with this year’s team.”
Despite having a reputation as a great defensive head coach, the Lakers seemed intent on not giving Vogel a singular solid defensive player this season beyond Anthony Davis, who missed most of the year anyway. Predictably, the result was the Lakers never finding a groove on that end of the floor this season and, thus, struggling to string together wins.
Again, if the Lakers are going to land top coaching candidates this summer, there’s going to have to be a synergy between front office and the coaching staff that never seemed to exist with Frank Vogel.