Lakers Favorites to Land NBA Champion as Head Coach

Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers Rob Pelinka.

Former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has emerged as the betting odds-on favorite to succeed Darvin Ham as the next Lakers head coach.

The Lakers head coaching seat, one of the most high-profile jobs in sports, typically requires a coach with a lot of cachet. Budenholzer — the only active coach in the NBA besides Gregg Popovich to win multiple Coach of the Year awards and an NBA Championship — has the resume to coach the Los Angeles-based club.

Budenholzer, who started his career as a video coordinator with the Spurs, coached the Hawks for five years between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons. During his stint in Atlanta, Budenholzer guided the franchise to their first-ever 60-win season and their deepest playoff run in 48 years.

During his five-year stint in Milwaukee, the 54-year-old enjoyed even more success, guiding the franchise to a 60-win season and three other 50-win seasons. Most importantly, he spearheaded the Bucks to its first NBA Championship in 50 years.

Will Lakers Be Willing to Pay?

According to several insiders, Budenholzer is seeking an eight-figure salary that few coaches are ever afforded in the NBA. The departing Ham, for example, agreed to a contract worth $5 million per year when he signed with the franchise in 2022.

On the May 6 episode of “Get Up” on ESPN, insider Brian Windhorst reported the Lakers would need to shell out the big bucks to entice Budenholzer.

“It’s going to take eight figures a year to hire Mike Budenholzer,” Windhorst said. “That’s where you have to start. Plus, Mike Budenholzer typically wants to have a lot of say [on roster construction] and have a lot of control. We’ll see if the Lakers will be willing to offer that to him.”

ESPN’s Stephen A Smith has urged the Lakers to pony up top dollars for a high-profile coach rather than settling for debutants — such as JJ Redick — or assistant coaches from other franchises such as Charles Lee of the Celtics.

“I don’t care if I have to call Jeanie Buss myself, you’ve got to pay,” Smith said on the May 7 episode of “First Take” on ESPN. “You can’t be cheap. You can’t do that. You’ve got to come out pocket to get the kind of coach you want.”

The Merciless Job of a Lakers Coach

Since LeBron James joined the Lakers in 2018, the franchise has dismissed three separate coaches — Luke Walton, Frank Vogel and Ham. As such, many have labeled the Lakers coaching job as merciless that some could be afraid to take up, especially younger coaches trying to make their mark in the NBA.

To that end, Redick — who has the second-shortest odds to succeed Ham — could be walking into a buzzsaw in his first job as a head coach in the NBA. ESPN analyst Jay Williams explained why Redick would be better off taking the job with the Hornets.

“Are we realistically talking about JJ Redick having an opportunity to become the Lakers coach? If you’re JJ Redick, is that the job you want for your first head coaching position? We’re talking about this [Lakers job] being a death trap for a lot of coaches,” Williams said on the May 6 episode of “Get Up” on ESPN.

The Lakers are expected to announce their next head coach before the June 26-27 NBA Draft. Typically, franchises take a coach’s input as it pertains to drafting, scouting and free agency decisions.

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