Anyone paying close attention to reports about the current Lakers coaching search has probably noticed a similar narrative in the scoops from two of the league’s top insiders, as both Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN have gone out of their way to point out how patient and slow the Lakers are taking about this search.
Wojnarowski, immediately after Frank Vogel was fired, noted that the team’s search would be “lengthy and expansive,” and then last week talked about how the front office would take things slower than other teams before writing on Friday that “the Lakers’ search process has been methodical.” Charania, in his report about the team requesting permission to speak to Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, said that fans should “expect Lakers management to take a patient, diligent approach to this coaching search.”
Now, when two of the league’s preeminent scoopsters are hitting the same talking points, it’s usually a signal that this is a message or narrative the team or party involved is actively putting out there themselves. Now, maybe the Lakers just really want us to know how thoughtful and smart and different they are from other teams, but the fairly obvious counterpoint to that is that the front office also may just want to wait and see if other coaches become available as the playoffs and offseason progress.
And well, according to the latest Substack column from my fellow CSUF alum and veteran NBA insider Marc Stein, that’s pretty much exactly what the Lakers’ goal is (emphasis mine):
Former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham, Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin and Jackson are the four known candidates to have interviewed with the Lakers to date. Sources maintain that the Lakers’ search is moving deliberately at least in part because L.A. wants to see if Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers or Utah’s Quin Snyder makes it to the open market this offseason.
Again, this was not all that hard to guess at, but is notable to confirm nonetheless. Because while maybe the Lakers really do want to survey their options slowly, this reasoning always made sense as an explanation for them moving this slowly, only even conducting their first interviews nearly a month after firing Frank Vogel.
Now does that mean that none of the guys the Lakers are talking to have any chance to get the job? Of course not. Any of the four candidates Stein mentioned could theoretically impress enough to be the team’s choice when this process is over. But it would be naive to assume that a team this obsessed with big names and whose general manager basically described Doc Rivers while discussing what they wanted to see from their eventual Vogel replacement wouldn’t want to wait and talk to the man himself.
Still, there are caveats we have to mention in the interest of fairness. Rivers explicitly said he was “not a candidate” for the Lakers coaching job and described the team’s treatment of Vogel as “unfair.” Snyder called rumors connecting him to the Lakers “disrespectful” and was reported to be “less interested in the Lakers’ job because of how the Vogel firing was handled.” That said, there also has to be a reason that those two names were the reported favorites to replace Vogel before he was even fired. Until the team hires a coach without even waiting to see if they can talk to them, we’d be naive to assume they wouldn’t delay their process to see if they can get that chance. Especially if waiting means they don’t have to trade for them if they either leave their current teams or are fired.
All that noted, Rivers’ Philadelphia 76ers are currently trailing the Miami Heat 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals and just got Joel Embiid back, and Snyder just had hip surgery and is still employed by the Utah Jazz, who have maintained they want to keep their coach despite his unwillingness to extend his contract. So if the Lakers are indeed waiting those two out, it may still be a few weeks as their slow, methodical and smart process that is definitely not just delaying on behalf of those two or others continues.