Lakers potential coach candidates after firing Darvin Ham

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The Lakers have let go of Darvin Ham following their elimination to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. Ham boasted a 90-74 record in his two years as LA’s head coach, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2023.

Rob Pelinka and the front office will now begin their search for the next head coach of the franchise. Let’s break down some potential candidates the Purple and Gold could hire.

Ty Lue

The ideal coach for the Lakers to land is Ty Lue. Lue is currently the coach of the Clippers, but with their first-round struggles (down 3-2 to the Mavericks), they may opt to part ways.

Lue is one of the best coaches in the NBA and has a history with LeBron James. In 2016, Lue was the head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they came back from a 3-1 deficit.

Lue’s familiarity with James (he coached Cleveland from 2016-18) makes him an ideal fit as the Lakers' next head coach.

He is great with making adjustments and is strong with the X’s and O’s, two areas where Ham was questioned during his tenure.

If Lue becomes available, he should be considered by Pelinka and the front office.

Phil Handy

Phil Handy is the top in-house candidate for the head coaching job. Handy is known as the best skills coach in the league and is well-liked by players. He has been pivotal in the development of players like Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura.

Handy has been an assistant on multiple championship teams, including the 2016 Cavs, 2019 Raptors, and 2020 Lakers.

However, Handy has not been a head coach in his career. It’s unknown if he desires this role and how he would perform as a rookie head coach.

If Handy wants to pursue a role as head coach, Pelinka and the front office should interview him. However, if they go in another direction, the new head coach must do their best to keep him on as an assistant.

JJ Redick

JJ Redick is one of the more interesting candidates on the Lakers radar. Redick has not been a head coach or even an assistant coach but was a high-IQ player throughout his career.

Redick has showcased his basketball IQ on his podcast with LeBron. The connection between LeBron and Redick could make a great pairing.

Redick’s effectiveness in the X and O’s would be valuable. If Redick and the front office were able to surround him with a coaching staff of former head coaches and experienced assistants, it could help him back the leap to an effective head coach.

Mike Budenholzer

Mike Budenholzer is the most accomplished head coach on the market this offseason (unless Lue is available). Budenholzer has a 484-317 record in his career and won the title with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020-21 season.

Milwaukee fired Budenholzer last offseason following the Bucks's second-round exit to the Boston Celtics.

The criticism of hiring Budenholzer would be Ham, a coach who came from Budenholzer’s staff. Budenholzer has also been criticized for not making necessary adjustments in playoff series.

With his experience, Budenholzer should receive an interview from the LakeShow.

Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Atkinson is another candidate who should be on the Lakers' radar. Atkinson is currently an assistant on the Golden State Warriors staff and was the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 to 2020.

Atkinson’s record was 118-189 during his head coaching tenure. While the record isn’t great, he was leading a rebuilding team and helped them reach the playoffs in the 2018-19 season.

He is a coach with experience, and being under Steve Kerr in Golden State for a few years is beneficial as he returns to the head coaching market.

The Lakers have a tough search ahead, as the next head coach needs to make an immediate impact. It will be interesting to see if the front office opts for a rookie with promise or an experienced head coach with some flaws.

Frank Vogel

A reunion with Frank Vogel is a possibility but is unlikely. Vogel coached the Lakers from 2020-2022 before being replaced by Ham.

Vogel won the title with LA in 2020 but was fired after a disappointing season in 2021-22. He seemed to be the scapegoat for a failed experiment with Russell Westbrook, but it’s still unlikely for him to return.

Vogel is currently the Phoenix Suns head coach, but there are rumors he could be dismissed. However, don’t expect a reunion with the LakeShow because that could be awkward.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is another former high-IQ player who could be on LA’s radar. Rondo was a vocal leader for the Lakers in the 2020 championship season. 

However, Rondo doesn’t have any coaching experience. He would likely be better as an assistant coach unless the front office surrounded him with a staff of former head coaches.

The Lakers have a big decision to make as they need to get the hiring right of their next head coach for the future of the franchise.

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