Lakers ‘Infatuated’ With Prime HC Candidate’s Hall-of-Fame Qualities

Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers Rob Pelinka.

The Los Angeles Lakers began interviewing candidates for their head coaching vacancy, meeting with their rumored top three candidates.

Each of James Borrego, Sam Cassell, and JJ Redick are under early consideration for the position with Redick holding a slight lead. But new intel out of LA suggests that Redick may well be the clear-cut favorite to become the Lakers’ eighth coach since Phil Jackson.

The Lakers see similar traits in Redick as shown by former Lakers head coach Pat Riley.

“Leaguewide, Redick — a former player and media analyst — has garnered buzz for the position,” The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Shams Charania wrote on May 21. “The Lakers are infatuated with Redick’s potential, according to league sources, viewing him as a Pat Riley-like coaching prospect who could both help the franchise in the short term and lead it for years.”

Redick played 15 seasons in the NBA and has expressed a strong interest in coaching but has no experience.

He also hosts a podcast with Lakers star LeBron James. But Charania reported on “Run It Back” on May 21 that James is staying out of the coaching search. Lakers brass is said to be high on LA Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, though he is not officially available.

Redick would be following a similar path as Riley, albeit with one notable step omitted.

JJ Redick Could Take Less Beaten Path to Lakers HC Job

Redick’s rapid ascension would be unconventional but far from unprecedented, with Riley but one example of such a move working out.

Riley spent nine years in the NBA as a player, winning a championship with the Lakers in 1972. He also spent time with the then-San Diego Rockets and Phoenix Suns in his playing career. Riley re-joined the Lakers organization as an assistant in 1979 after two years as a broadcaster.

He was named head coach in 1981, winning the NBA Finals in Year 1.

Riley and Co. went on to win three more titles and three other Finals appearances in his nine years at the helm. They made the postseason each year.

After a four-year stint with the New York Knicks (1991-92 to 1994-95), the Hall of Famer moved on to the Miami Heat. He began as their head coach from 1995-96 to 2007-08, winning another championship in 2005-06.

Riley has led Miami to two more titles and four more Finals as team president since then.

The report does not say the Lakers believe Redick is the second coming of Riley. But that is still lofty company to keep at the outset of one’s career.

As a more recent comparison, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made a similar transition as Riley. His journey took him to the Suns front office before coaching after his careers as a player and broadcaster.

Kerr – a five-time champ as a player – has won four titles in six Finals as a head coach.

NBA Champion, LeBron James’ Former Teammate Warns Lakers Over JJ Redick

Redick has a lot of momentum at this stage. But one former teammate of James’ is not sure the ex-Clipper is right for the job. Udonis Haslem was James’ championship teammate in Miami for four years. He doesn’t think that Redick has the cache to command an NBA locker room.

“I’m gonna go ahead and say it: If it’s JJ, it’s gonna be a cynical locker room,” Haslem said on “NBA Today” on May 14. “You’re gonna see guys that are gonna say, ‘Is Coach going to do a podcast after the game with LeBron?’ You’re gonna have a cynical locker room of guys that are gonna side-eye everything JJ says because they’re gonna wonder is it JJ’s message or LeBron’s message.”

Another of James’ ex-teammates, ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, is in on his colleague with a caveat.

“JJ Redick knows the game of basketball from an Xs and Os standpoint. But the one thing that I feel JJ Redick is gonna have to do is lose that snobby Duke attitude,” Perkins said on the show on May 20. “Going into that locker room, it’s one thing to have a high basketball IQ, and [to] know your Xs and Os, but it’s another thing to make sure you gather the ears of that locker room.

“This day and age, these guys are a lot different than when I played in the early 2000s. … It’s a certain type of level of respect that you gotta give and you gotta have in that locker room.”

Redick’s reputation precedes him, as does his acumen. Neither predicts his coaching career.