With Frank Vogel out, who will Lakers hire as head coach?
Now, less than 24 hours since their season ended in sputtering disappointment, the Los Angeles Lakers offseason starts in overdrive. Up next on the docket: Figuring out what to do with Russell Westbrook and finding a new head coach — not necessarily in that order.
The Lakers job is one of the biggest and most scrutinized in all of sports. Will they seek out an established veteran or an up-and-comer to lead LeBron James' twilight years? Candidates of both ilk were already gaining buzz on Monday.
Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors head coach
Per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Nick Nurse is among the Lakers' top targets. And why wouldn't he be? The 54-year-old was promoted to the lead job in Toronto in 2018 after years as an assistant. He immediately rewarded the decision by helping deliver an NBA championship in his first season.
Granted, the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard that offseason was the primary catalyst for Toronto's title, but Nurse delivered in his first season en route to becoming one of the most respected names in the game. An esteemed strategist, Nurse was credited with opening up the Raptors offense prior to taking over as head coach. His bonafides managing a team built around a superstar are established.
The question here isn't whether the Lakers are interested in Nurse. It's if he's interested in leaving a good thing in Toronto for the Lakers. And if so, are the Raptors willing to cooperate with two seasons left on their contract with Nurse?
Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz head coach
Snyder's been linked to the Lakers since it became apparent that Vogel was on his way out. The longtime Utah Jazz coach, meanwhile, is busy preparing for his sixth-straight postseason. Utah has been a perpetual contender in the West under Snyder, but lack of playoff success has sparked speculation that it might be time for a change in Salt Lake City if the Jazz don't make a Finals run this season.
According to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein, the Jazz aren't dissatisfied with Snyder. Per Stein, they've extended an extension offer that he's yet to sign. He reportedly still has time left on his current deal, but the details aren't clear, and Snyder's not interested in addressing them. If he is ready for a change, is he interested in the Lakers? Or do the post-Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs have more appeal? Whenever Pop decides to hang things up, of course.
Juwan Howard, University of Michigan head coach
Here's an intriguing name. Howard, 49, already has what could rightfully be labeled a dream job coaching a power program at his alma mater. The Fab Five center is fresh off his second-straight trip to the Sweet 16 in three years of coaching at Michigan. He was AP Coach of the Year in 2021. He landed a top-five recruiting class last season and has another top-10 class incoming next season.
Would he really leave such a good thing for the NBA? The opportunity to coach LeBron and the Lakers might be the kind of job to lure him away. Per Charania, he's in the mix for the job. He interviewed with the Lakers in 2019 before joining Michigan. He spent 19 seasons playing in the NBA, including winning two championships alongside James in Miami, and was a Heat assistant coach from 2013-19. It's not like making the jump from college would be a shock to his system.
David Fizdale, Los Angeles Lakers assistant
While the Lakers fired Vogel, they reportedly didn't dismiss his staff on Monday. This includes lead assistant David Fizdale. The 18-year NBA assistant and head coach has a relationship with James dating back to his days on Erik Spoelstra's staff with the Miami Heat.
Fizdale found immediate success in his first NBA head coaching stint, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to an unexpected playoff run in 2017. But he was fired 19 games into his second season amid a 7-12 start and discord with star center Marc Gasol.
Fizdale joined the Knicks as head coach in 2018 before being similarly fired early in his second season there amid a 4-18 start. His early exit from both jobs prompted outcry in league circles, including from James in 2017.
I need some answers. Feels like my man was a fall guy
— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 27, 2017
James is a fan of Fizdale's and won two titles with the Heat running an offense Fizdale helped develop. Nobody would be surprised if Fizdale ends up taking the reins in Los Angeles.
Steve Clifford, free agent
This isn't a sexy name, but a stable one. A longtime NBA head coach and assistant, Clifford helped elevate the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats and Orlando Magic to levels of respectability not always seen in those parts. In eight NBA seasons as a head coach, Clifford led the Hornets and Magic to two playoff berths each.
A defensive-minded coach, Clifford could conceivably help the Lakers re-establish the identity that led them to an NBA championship in 2020. He hasn't coached since parting with the Magic in 2021 amid their latest roster rebuild. Is there mutual interest?
The list doesn't stop there, of course. Other names including 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and assistant Sam Cassell, veteran coaches Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni, and recently fired Kings interim head coach Alvin Gentry could also emerge as candidates.
Whoever lands the job will do so under tremendous pressure. Patience for losing in LeBron's final years is short.