May 25, 2024

JJ Redick, James Borrego, Sam Cassell emerge as early top targets for Lakers’ coaching job: Sources

CHICAGO — As the Los Angeles Lakers begin contacting head coaching candidates and scheduling interviews this week, JJ Redick, James Borrego and Sam Cassell have emerged as the franchise’s initial leading targets, league sources told The Athletic.

The franchise’s next coach will be tasked with guiding both the end of the LeBron JamesAnthony Davis era — potentially a two-year window — and then the next era of Lakers basketball led by Davis. Los Angeles is looking for a coach who can grow with the franchise for years to come, according to team and league sources, placing a premium on maximizing Davis’ greatness, the current returning players and the element of high-level player development.

As one source briefed on the situation said, “This should be more of a hire about AD than LeBron.”

The Lakers are expected to have an initial round of coaching interviews with candidates the franchise has not previously vetted, allowing team officials to get to know those individuals on a human level before progressing to the next phrase, league sources said.

The Lakers are seeking a coach who will command the locker room and hold players accountable, as well as tirelessly gameplan and provide a level of structure and organization, according to those sources.

Multiple sources briefed on the matter say one person who has become a respected unofficial resource for the Lakers during the process is ​​legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose deep knowledge for candidates, such as Redick and others, provides a lens into the culture the organization wants and the characteristics of a potential staff around the next head coach. Krzyzewski’s history with the Lakers goes back to 2004 when Dr. Jerry Buss made a strong yet unsuccessful offer to hire Coach K.

As The Athletic reported following their dismissal of head coach Darvin Ham, the Lakers’ top initial candidates have been LA Clippers coach Tyronn Lue (whose contract expires next season), Redick, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, Mike Budenholzer (who recently replaced Frank Vogel as the Phoenix Suns’ head coach) and former Boston Celtics assistant coach Charles Lee (who recently became the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets).

Since then, Redick, the 39-year-old ESPN analyst and 15-year NBA veteran; Borrego, the 46-year-old associate coach of the New Orleans Pelicans who previously coached the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets; and Cassell, the 54-year-old assistant coach of Boston Celtics who’s been a 15-year assistant after a 15-year NBA career, have surfaced as initial leading targets for the Lakers.

Denver Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori and Miami Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn are expected to be among the other candidates, according to league and team sources.

Redick has yet to coach above the youth level, making him the largest unknown among the coaching candidates. He’s the most forward-facing of the candidates given his high-profile playing career, run as a media personality and his recent “Mind the Game” podcast with James.

Despite his lack of coaching experience at the NBA level, he’s regarded as one of the most promising prospects on the market, and has made clear publicly and privately that he has a significant desire to make the leap to head coaching. Redick interviewed for the Hornets‘ head coaching job recently and had an interview for the Toronto Raptors’ opening last offseason.

Borrego, New Orleans’ associate head coach under Willie Green, was one of the driving forces behind the Pelicans’ offensive improvement from 20th in points scored per 100 possessions in 2022-23 to 11th this past season. Borrego led the Hornets to 43 wins in his final season in 2021-22 (still their most as an organization since the 2015-16 season). He was 148-183 (.447) in his four-plus seasons as a head coach in Charlotte and 30-game stint as Magic interim coach.

Cassell, who joined the Celtics’ staff last offseason, has coached under Flip Saunders, Randy Wittman, Doc Rivers and Joe Mazzulla. He’s been one of Rivers’ lead assistants in nine of his 15 coaching seasons. Cassell is well-respected by players and has a strong reputation with player development. He won three championships as a player (1994 and 1995 in Houston; 2008 in Boston).

As The Athletic reported after the Lakers’ Game 5 loss to the Nuggets, James is expected to play up to two more NBA seasons, one source briefed on his thinking said. That means this coach will likely be the final coach of James’ career in the scenario that he re-signs with the Lakers.

Los Angeles is open to discussing any deal framework for James to return, as well as potentially drafting Bronny James in next month’s NBA Draft, according to team sources. Bronny James intends to stay in the draft, participating in all pre-draft activities beginning with the Combine this week in Chicago and agency Pro Days next week in Los Angeles before narrowing a list of interested teams to about a handful.

(Top photo: Tyler Ross / NBAE via Getty Images)