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Report: Juwan Howard was Lakers' first choice as head coach

The Lakers reportedly went as far as telling Juwan Howard that the head coaching gig was his if he wanted it.

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Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

The Lakers’ 47-day coaching search was by all accounts conducted in a thorough and methodical way, living up to Rob Pelinka’s promise. The team eventually found their new leader in Darvin Ham, who they believe will instill, in their own words, “a no-nonsense and hard-working approach” to the organization.

But before they settled on an agreement with Ham to be the 28th head coach in the franchise’s history, the Lakers’ eyes were reportedly trained on someone else. Apparently, just like the last time they hired a new coach, the Lakers weren’t able to land their first-choice candidate. Above the rest of the numerous names they were linked to, the Lakers reportedly favored current University of Michigan head coach Juwan Howard.

According to veteran NBA insider Marc Stein, the Lakers were dead set on giving Howard the keys to lead the team. Stein reported on his Substack that the Lakers went as far as to imply to Howard that the head coaching gig was his if he wanted it.

The most interesting thing I’ve heard while we wait for Ham’s official introduction is that, according to the latest buzz in league coaching circles, Michigan’s Juwan Howard was the Lakers’ preferred candidate among the various coaches to whom they were linked who were under contract elsewhere and thus ultimately unavailable — ahead of Philadelphiaʼs Doc Rivers and Utahʼs Quin Snyder.

The Lakers, I’m told, made such strong overtures to Howard that the implication was clear: The job was his if he wanted it. As covered here on May 2, Howard made it clear in turn throughout the Lakers’ 47-day search that — despite his long associations with both James and Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka — he had no interest in leaving behind the college game at Michigan and the opportunity to coach sons Jace and Jett next season.

Obviously, that didn’t end up working out, as Howard reportedly didn’t even bother to sit down with Pelinka and Co. for an interview. Howard, who was a teammate of Pelinka’s during their shared time at Michigan, was also considered for the coaching vacancy in 2019 when he reportedly impressed the front office during the job interview.

But this time, it was Howard who denied the Lakers’ advances despite having ties with both Pelinka and LeBron James — for good reason. It seems Howard is steadfast in coaching his sons Jace and Jett for the Michigan Wolverines.

Still, there are reasons to think this process can work out for Los Angeles. Remember, back in 2019, both Ty Lue and Monty Williams turned down offers from the Lakers, instead going on to coach two of their biggest Western Conference rivals. The purple and gold then eventually settled on Frank Vogel, who sculpted an elite defense and led the Lakers to their 17th championship in 2020.

So even though Ham, like Vogel, reportedly wasn’t their first choice, the franchise is still surely hoping that their new head coach can lead them back to the mountain top.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.