The Lakers have finally moved on to the second phase of their coaching search, as they have reportedly narrowed down their choice to three final candidates: Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham (who has reportedly made the strongest impression), Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts will fly out to Los Angeles to meet the Lakers committee in the next coming days.
These three coaches will meet an exclusive committee spearheaded by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka alongside fellow front office staffers Kurt Rambis, Joey Buss and Jesse Buss. And if you’re wondering where Jeanie Buss is in that mix, it turns out — according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic — she has not been very involved in the coaching search just yet (even if the prospective coaches will meet with her as part of this next step in the process):
Pelinka is heading the committee that will ultimately make the decision. Jeanie Buss, who has yet to be involved in the process, is not part of the committee and plans on deferring to its recommendation. Phil Jackson and Johnson aren’t part of the committee, either. It’s only Lakers officials — none of whom are named LeBron James. While it’s known that James would have been enthused by the prospect of Mark Jackson getting the nod here, that obviously won’t be the case.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Buss is apathetic to whoever leads the Lakers next. However, as was reported in May, it seems she still has complete confidence in Pelinka and the committee to handle one of the biggest decisions the Lakers have to make this summer.
So while Buss will obviously still have the final say on who coaches the Lakers next, it sound like she’s more focused on a different goal: making sure the team’s next coach steps into the role knowing that they have the organization’s full support:
Considering the many unflattering storylines that have surrounded the Lakers in recent years, from Magic’s messy exit in April 2019 to Jerry West deeming them a “shitshow” in December 2020 to the “I haven’t been told shit” Vogel firing that was executed so poorly, Jeanie Buss is determined to assuage any and all of the finalists’ concerns about the organization during this final stage. Her message, the source said, would focus on an organizational commitment to providing both the resources and internal support needed to inspire team success.
So yes, Jeanie may not be interviewing any candidates but she’s still involved in the process and has the final say on who leads the Lakers next. This is typically how she has tried to operate publicly since taking over from her father, whether it’s been Jim Buss, Magic Johnson or Rob Pelinka in charge. And so with the next stage of the coaching search finally commencing, it sounds like it will once again be up to Pelinka and the front office to determine the franchise’s 27th head coach.