It’s been a week since the Lakers fired Frank Vogel, and every update on their search for his replacement so far has suggested that general manager Rob Pelinka was telling the truth when he said that the team’s process would be “thorough and methodical.” Because while the organization has been linked to plenty of names by rumors and reports, there hasn’t been a lot of movement, or even any reported interviews so far.
On Sunday, we got the latest names added to the team’s “lengthy and expansive search” courtesy of Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times, who wrote about a few of the usual suspects while including some new names — and ruling out one holdover from the team’s last game of musical chairs for millionaires — in his latest dispatch on the team’s ongoing hiring process (emphasis mine):
Those in the league with knowledge of the situation expect Toronto’s Nick Nurse, Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers and Utah’s Quin Snyder to be candidates should they become available. Former Portland coach Terry Stotts, former Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, former Lakers coach Mike Brown and Utah assistant Alex Jensen also might be considered. Same for Juwan Howard, who interviewed in 2019, although sources told The Times that his intention is to continue coaching Michigan, where two of his sons play.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Howard — a college teammate of Pelinka and NBA teammate of LeBron James — might be more interested in coaching his two sons than signing up to lead this Lakers team, so at this point, with this amount of noise to that effect, it’s probably time to assume that he’s out of the running until we hear he got an interview, or something of the like.
But for those keeping track at home, this is now 11 names the Lakers have been linked to by media reports. In addition to Snyder, Nurse, Rivers, Howard and Brown, the team has also been tied to Steve Clifford, Terry Stotts, Darvin Ham, Mark Jackson, and now Brooks and Jensen make 10 and 11.
Jensen is an interesting name just in the fact that I have literally never heard of him until this moment, which — in a process that has mostly just included big names, former Lakers, or those with other ties to the organization — is a positive signal that the team really is casting a wide net.
Jensen filled in as interim head coach this season for the Jazz while Snyder was in health and safety protocols. He was also a candidate for the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job in 2019, and declined both the BYU and University of Utah gigs in the years since, the latter of which he played for in college from 1994-2000.
After that search, Snyder said he was relieved to keep Jensen, saying that the longtime assistant is “incredibly important to our program, to me personally, in so many ways, whether it be game management, the things that people see the most of, our preparation process and teaching.” Jensen is also widely credited with helping Rudy Gobert develop from a G Leaguer to a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate and winner, and Gobert has been vocal in his appreciation for the assistant coach and how much their bond has aided him (via NBA.com):
“He’s really helped me grow as a person and a player,” Gobert said. “He’s someone who has always been honest to me. A lot of guys in this business tell you what you want to hear. Alex has always been really honest with me. That’s one of the main reasons I was able to get better year after year.”
Brooks, meanwhile, is likely a familiar name to any Lakers fans who have been paying attention to the team’s past hiring processes, or just the NBA in general. In addition to growing up in Southern California and playing for UCI, Brooks had interest in coaching the Lakers in 2016 after being fired by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was ultimately hired to lead the Washington Wizards instead, where in his final season in Washington in 2020-21, he reunited with his former Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook before getting canned at the end of the season.
Then, when Westbrook was traded to the Lakers last summer, the team interviewed Brooks to join Frank Vogel’s staff and serve as a pseudo Russ Whisperer, but were ultimately outbid by the Portland Trail Blazers, one of the most notoriously thrifty spenders on support staff in the NBA. But at the very least all the links suggest that Brooks is at least theoretically interested in a return to his home area. And, importantly, he also may be a similar, Vogel-esque, third-time retread in the sense that he wouldn’t have the leverage to push back on a shorter contract or being micromanaged by Kurt Rambis, two things the Lakers have valued in their head coaches in the past (see Vogel, Frank).
Brooks’ candidacy is also interesting in that it may signal the team is at least considering keeping Russell Westbrook around, as arguably no coach has had more success fostering a relationship with him than Brooks. If the team ultimately can’t move the expensive final year of Westbrook’s deal, at least giving Brooks an interview as a fallback option if they can’t get their top candidates isn’t the worst idea.
Anyway, all this ink spilled may be pointless, as it stands to reason the Lakers will likely have higher priorities than these two new names, and may take quite a bit longer as they wait for higher-profile options to get eliminated in the playoffs. Still, it’s worth noting every time their list expands, and seeing what the new candidates could potentially bring to the table.
Are you sold on any of the guys mentioned so far? Let us know in the comments below.