The Los Angeles Lakers are in the thick of their head coaching search and they can take their time as the Charlotte Hornets are the only other team in the NBA looking for a head coach currently. The team has been linked to some bigger names with previous head coaching experience like Mark Jackson, Terry Stotts, Doc Rivers and more, but they’ve also been interested in some assistants looking for their first head coaching jobs. Adrian Griffin of the Toronto Raptors and Darvin Ham of the Milwaukee Bucks have both been linked to the job, among others.
The most likely outcome is that the Lakers decide to hire a coach with previous experience as a head coach. Seven of the last eight full-time Lakers head coaches had previously held a head job before being hired. However, it’s possible that the team tries to take a chance on a new name. Sean Deveney of Heavy.com recently spoke to an anonymous Western Conference executive who predicted that Los Angeles will hire Griffin.
“The guy they should hire who is probably not going get anyone super-excited unless you’re in the game and you know the guy is Adrian Griffin. He has been there at every level of basketball, all the way back to the CBA. Everyone respects him,” the executive told Deveney. “He was a veteran leader as a player, he has coached superstar players, he coached with Team USA. He was an assistant with Russ (Westbrook) in OKC. You’re not going to put him in a situation where he is going to be intimidated, he has seen it all already.”
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Would Griffin Be the Right Hire?
When looking at assistants with no head coaching experience, it’s difficult for a team to know for sure what they’re getting. Griffin has spent the last four years coaching under Nick Nurse in Toronto. He’s widely considered one of the best coaches in the NBA so the fact that Griffin has been under him for so long works in his favor.
As the executive noted, Griffin had a long career as a player. Current players always resonate with former players who become coaches. He’s not the biggest name the Lakers are thinking about but sometimes the unknown commodity is the best option. Even Phil Jackson was an assistant coach at one point. There is a level of risk involved in going with a rookie head coach but there’s also the chance that Griffin is the next great NBA coach. Perhaps now is the time for the Lakers to swing for the fences after playing it safe when they hired Frank Vogel in 2019.
Griffin Has Ties to Russell Westbrook
When the season ended for the Lakers, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that Russell Westbrook would not be on the team next season. It appears the tides are starting to change. Sam Amick of The Athletic recently reported that the Lakers are asking coaching candidates in interviews how they’d plan to use Westbrook. It’s entirely possible that the team is planning to keep him around for another season.
Perhaps the person most qualified to work with Westbrook is Griffin. He was an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2016 to 2018, including during Westbrook’s MVP run in 2017. Griffin has had an intimate look at how Westbrook operates when he’s at his most successful. If the Lakers truly want to figure out how to use Westbrook instead of trading him, Griffin might be the best guy for the job.