The end of the 2021-22 season will bring a merciful end to a seemingly cursed Lakers team that never got out of its own way this season. Its end will also almost certainly spell the end of Frank Vogel’s time as head coach of the team as well.
Improbably, Vogel stayed on the sidelines throughout the entire season despite rumors that he would be fired swirling since November. And Vogel is indeed expected to be fired once the season does come to an end.
That will leave a very big opening on the sidelines for the Lakers that will certainly draw the attention of the rest of the league. On Tuesday morning, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report penned a piece about the potential head coaching options for the Lakers, beginning with Jazz frontman Quin Snyder, a potential pairing first reported by longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein.
As Marc Stein first reported, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder is perhaps most often mentioned by league figures as a possible Vogel replacement. For now, Snyder remains entrenched in Utah and told Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune: “My focus is on our guys and our team. And as I said, addressing hypotheticals in these types of questions in any form I feel like is disrespectful.”
There is, however, a healthy dose of skepticism around the NBA that Snyder would have interest in a hypothetical Lakers marriage. Snyder would appear to be just as prominent a candidate to one day succeed Popovich in San Antonio, even if Popovich endures on the Spurs’ sideline for the 2022-23 season.
Snyder pushed back against the rumors linking him to the Lakers initially, as Fischer notes. But as the Jazz continue to struggle heading into the playoffs — their only win in the last eight games came against the Lakers — his future in Utah seems less and less certain.
A new name mentioned by Fischer, though, is one that should not come entirely as a surprise: SIxers head coach Doc Rivers. A longtime veteran head coach, Rivers’ situation in Philadelphia has gotten rocky and could come to an end this offseason, opening up the possibility of him coming back to Los Angeles, where he used to
have a job covering up the Lakers’ championship banners coach the Clippers.
Doc Rivers, the Philadelphia 76ers’ head coach, is another active bench leader being mentioned by league personnel as a potential Lakers candidate. Rivers’ tenure in Philadelphia has also come into question of late, spurred by team president Daryl Morey’s deadline acquisition of James Harden and the mounting speculation that followed about a potential reunification with Harden’s former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Fischer notes that Rivers is expected to also be a candidate for the Jazz job should that come open as well (where it should be noted that his former boss, Danny Ainge, is said to have a great deal of sway in the front office). Despite repeatedly flaming out at each of his recent stops, Rivers’ name will likely be in high demand this summer.
What also appears clear — with Rivers as an exception — is that connections to the Lakers in the past will carry extra weight this summer for the franchise. Fischer also noted a pair of former Lakers coaches that are expected to hit the open market this summer in search of new opportunities, and could be options for the purple and gold.
As the Lakers are expected to focus on candidates with previous experience, former Los Angeles head coach and current Warriors assistant Mike Brown, who hired Snyder for that 2011-12 campaign, is known to have interest in departing Golden State for another opportunity in a team’s first chair. The same is said for Steve Clifford, most recently the Magic’s head coach from 2018 to ‘21, who served as a Lakers assistant in 2012-13. It’s also widely believed that Los Angeles, as has been the franchise’s custom, will prioritize coaching candidates with past connections to the organization.
That report doesn’t sound like the Lakers would specifically have interest in either Mike Brown or Steve Clifford, but the bizarre pre-requisite of having been on the sidelines for the Lakers previously severely limits the pool of coaches and raises the likelihood of Brown or Clifford being potential candidates.
Obviously, Rivers is not a former Laker neither as player or coach. In fact, there might not be a person less of a Laker than Rivers, who won a title over the Lakers with the Boston Celtics, coached the Lob City Clippers, and is friends with Paul Pierce.
The assumption, presumably, would be that being a long-time veteran coach with plenty of ties across the league would override the franchise’s desire to pursue a former Lakers coach. It is worth noting that Frank Vogel had no ties to the Lakers when he was hired beyond being a former advance scout decades ago who never actually set foot in the building, so it’s not an absolute must for candidates.
Fischer’s report, though, does paint a pretty interesting picture for the Lakers’ search. After a search last time that landed them on three worthy candidates in Vogel, Monty Williams and Ty Lue, the front office’s inability to get out of its own way may prove a hurdle too big to overcome as they begin this search for another head coach.