The Los Angeles Lakers’ hunt for a new coach continues. This time, we get more information on the specific type of coach they are looking for. They are looking for someone who can integrate Russell Westbrook into the system — something that Frank Vogel failed to do.
A list of candidates has been going around, and it’s populated with familiar names of former and current NBA coaches. Previous reports revealed that legendary head coach Phil Jackson has been aiding the front office in the hunt.
“Yet though it remains unclear who will replace the fired Frank Vogel, with Kenny Atkinson, Adrian Griffin, Mark Jackson, Darvin Ham and Terry Stotts among the known candidates, we continue to learn about how Lakers officials see their own roster by way of the coaching search itself,” per The Athletic.
Westbrook to stay?
In addition, the priority seems to be the next coach’s vision for Westbrook. This was the puzzle that Vogel tried to solve all season long. So much so that he fielded close to 40 different starting line-ups and even benched Westbrook in several fourth quarters.
“More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time. Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.”
To recall, right after the team acquired the one-time MVP from the Washington Wizards, fans immediately racked their brains trying to figure out how Westbrook would co-exist with LeBron James.
The California native isn’t known for his shooting, and it’s common knowledge around the league that James needs to be surrounded by shooters to succeed.
The fans were right. Westbrook messed up the spacing as his defender lazily sagged off him. The UCLA product also couldn’t transition to a new role as a slasher. He seemed to be itching to orchestrate the offense as he did in Oklahoma. This was the main crux of the Lakers’ mediocre season and failure to qualify even for the play-in tourney.
This new detail on the Lakers’ coaching hunt reveals that either they haven’t learned their lesson or stubbornly believe Westbrook could co-exist with James. A full 82-game regular season wasn’t enough for the front office to realize that the duo just won’t ever work. They placed the blame on Vogel — the coach who brought them a championship — instead of blaming themselves for acquiring the wrong player.
For any coach to succeed, a player first needs to accept criticism and be coached. That's why the meeting the Lakers need to have isn't with their coaching candidates - it's with Russell Westbrook.