Lakers Linked to Star Ex-NBA Champ Coach as Wild Sleeper Candidate: Report

rob pelinka

Getty Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka faces a difficult decision.

With six games remaining, the Los Angeles Lakers are slated to miss the play-in tournament calling into question the future of head coach Frank Vogel. Unless the Lakers pull off a miraculous deep playoff run, it would be a surprise if Vogel is the head coach going into the 2022-23 season.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder continues to be mentioned as a possible candidate for the Lakers if he moves on from Utah. Outside of Snyder, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus labeled Michigan’s Juwan Howard and the Sixers Doc Rivers as dark horse candidates the Lakers could consider if they move on from Vogel. Rivers is under contract in Philadelphia, but Pincus sees a scenario where Mike D’Antoni replaces the current 76ers coach if the team has a disappointing postseason.

“There have been some names that I’ve been bandying about,” Pincus noted during a March 29, 2022 episode of the “FnA Podcast.” “I don’t know what happens in Philadelphia, if they fall short again, I’ve heard that there’s some potential that D’Antoni could replace Doc [Rivers] if things really go badly because they’re supposed to win. And if they have a letdown, maybe in the second round or something, maybe there’s a change there. And I could see Doc being the kind of personality that the Lakers would go after.”

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Rivers Signed a 5-Year, $40 Million Contract With Sixers

The Lakers landing Rivers is a long shot as several factors would have to work in Los Angeles’ favor. The 76ers would need to be willing to eat a good portion of Rivers’ lucrative deal. Rivers’ five-year, $40 million contract runs through the 2024-25 season, per Spotrac.

Feasibility aside, there is plenty for the Lakers to like about Rivers, including being a former NBA All-Star and spending 23 seasons as a head coach in the league. Rivers has a career 1038-734 record and led the Celtics to an NBA championship during the 2007-08 season. There are plenty of parallels to the Boston team Rivers coached to a title run and the Lakers’ current situation.

Rivers successfully managed three stars in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on their way to an NBA Championship. The Lakers would be hoping Rivers could do something similar with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Rivers has experience coaching historic franchises with massive expectations given his time with both the Celtics and 76ers.

Rivers on L.A.: ‘It is a Lakers Town’

The veteran head coach is also familiar with Los Angeles given his seven seasons on the Clippers bench. During an October 21, 2019 interview with ESPN Andscape’s Marc J. Spears, Rivers admitted Los Angeles “is a Lakers town.”

“It is a Lakers town. I’m good with that. I have no issues with that,” the then-Clippers head coach said. “They have how many titles that they’ve won here? You know, they claim them all, but they only won a certain amount here. I will say that. That actually bugs me a little bit. … Having said that, that’s generations of loyalty.

“I look at us as, we’re creating our own movement. … We’re not trying to take away shine from the other. We’ve got our own thing going. I never thought we could get our own thing going. That was what I was so frustrated with being here. And now we got our own thing going.”

The Lakers Are Expected to Fire Vogel This Offseason

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported on March 2 that the expectation around the league is Los Angeles will move on from Vogel this offseason. There was plenty of buzz throughout the season that the Lakers would make a change, but the team opted to allow Vogel to finish out the year. Time will tell if the Lakers are able to land a big-name coach like Howard or Rivers.

“Vogel’s job security has been in question since he was awarded a one-year contract extension in August, just a year after leading the Lakers to a championship,” Fischer detailed. “In January, Vogel’s job was reportedly in jeopardy, and he continues to endure rampant speculation. Few coaching figures hold optimism Vogel will still be manning the Lakers sideline come 2022-23.

“The whispers have been quiet on who could serve as Los Angeles’ next play-caller. Previous preferred candidates such as Tyronn Lue and Jason Kidd have found success with the Clippers and Mavericks, respectively, and the only word in coaching circles so far is the Lakers will likely prioritize finding an experienced coach rather than a first-timer for the job. That calculus would seem to align with Los Angeles’ never-ending title quest around James.”