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The Lakers Head Coach Job Is Only Good For One Thing

LeBron James #6 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench during the second half of a game against the Denver Nuggets at Crypto.com Arena on April 03, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided an update today on the Lakers’ coaching search, and the names won’t knock anyone out of their chairs: The finalists for the job are Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and Terry Stotts, who most recently coached the Blazers. This information was secondary to Wojnarowski’s main bit of news: Michigan men’s head coach Juwan Howard doesn’t want to coach the Lakers.

So disastrous were the Lakers’ last two seasons that not even a shred of old glamor remains in the job. The next head coach will have to put up with an impatient owner, declining stars, and nothing in the way of young or exciting talent. If Frank Vogel’s tenure is any indication, the next head coach may not even get the courtesy of knowing when he’s been fired.

The committee running the coaching search harbors some pretty entertaining delusions about the quality of the job, too: Candidates are being asked how they would use Russell Westbrook in their system. Because Lakers advisor Phil Jackson genuinely likes Westbrook and believes his play can be rehabilitated, answers along the lines of “trade him” aren’t allowed. If you can’t coach the Lakers at their Russ, Jackson’s philosophy goes, you don’t deserve them at their LeBron. Sam Amick of The Athletic reported last week that “the takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.” A coaching candidate who can win while maximizing Westbrook’s presence likely has better things to do than coach the Lakers. Accepting the Fields Medal, for one.

But the real juice of Woj’s update is that Howard “recently declined a Los Angeles Lakers overture for the franchise’s coaching job,” because he wants to coach his sons Jace and Jett at Michigan. It’s always fun when basketball insiders appropriate the language of courtship (bold, too, considering some basketball insiders know nothing about courtship). If you like making a game of figuring out who has leaked what scoops to whom, this story doesn’t pose many challenges. What you’re meant to take away here is that Howard is pretty much in the overture-declining business these days, so coveted is he.

“Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens was interested in Howard for his coaching opening a year ago, but Howard declined that overture too,” Woj writes. I suppose it isn’t completely accurate to say the Lakers job has nothing of value to offer anymore. It is something you can publicly decline to seem cooler.