Inside the Lakers' decision to hire JJ Redick and how he shapes their future (2024)

Seven weeks after firing Darvin Ham, the Los Angeles Lakers landed on their next head coach on Thursday: JJ Redick, the 15-year NBA veteran turned podcaster and broadcaster, league sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic. Redick is signing a four-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $8 million per season with the Lakers, according to sources briefed on the deal.

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Behind the scenes, the Lakers had been zeroing in on the 39-year-old Redick for the past four weeks, infatuated with his potential to be a coach for the present and future, beyond just the next couple seasons of LeBron James’ legendary career.

Redick had first interviewed with vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka for the Lakers’ head coaching job for about two hours during the week of May 13 at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. Redick then entered the Lakers facility on June 15 to meet again with Pelinka, as well as owners Jeanie, Joey and Jesse Buss, the remaining key stakeholders in the organization.

Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting described Redick as “impressive” during his visit to Los Angeles, diving deep into his offensive and defensive philosophies and displaying his passion for the sport that foreshadowed a willingness to submit himself to the countless working hours for the modern head coach.

He explained his decision-making process when it comes to strategy, how the analysis and empirical evidence would always guide his choices rather than preconceived notions or outdated beliefs. Redick described a system molded around this roster, focusing on elevating Anthony Davis’ involvement, particularly late in games, and alleviating the constant ballhandling duties on James by utilizing him more off the ball. Keeping James, who turns 40 in December, fresh down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs will be critical.

For these Lakers, Redick’s ability to access his stars in James and Davis could be seamless due to the stature he may bring as a respected former player, but how he unlocks the remainder of the roster and coaches top-down remains crucial to the job. Austin Reaves will surely be part of strong three-man attacks for the Lakers under Redick, who’ll be thrust into developing players such as Rui Hachimura, Max Christie and whomever the franchise drafts.

During his meetings with Pelinka and his visit with Lakers ownership, Redick showed promise, team sources said. But as with any first-time head coach, the true tests will come during the adversity of training camp and the season, the management of player relationships and the control of the locker room.

Redick has had a meteoric media rise since retiring from his playing career in 2021, running his podcast network, starting the “Mind the Game” show with James and serving as a color commentator during the NBA Finals all while simultaneously chasing a head coaching job. Redick interviewed for the Toronto Raptors’ top coaching job in 2023 and the Charlotte Hornets this year. He has never coached professionally — his only coaching experience to this point was with his son’s youth basketball team.

League sources briefed on Redick’s mindset say he badly wants to make the jump to NBA head coach and embrace the challenges the chair brings as he believes it is the natural transition of his basketball life.

As Redick watched these NBA playoffs, both as a commentator and viewer, he envisioned how he would utilize a potential James/Davis-led roster. Just a few years after ending his playing career, Redick has his next basketball challenge.

The Lakers underwent some turbulence in their coaching search.

Much of the process consisted of Pelinka meeting with candidates by himself off-site or virtually, not within Lakers headquarters. After his conversation with Redick, Pelinka met with Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego in Los Angeles on May 20. Several candidates — Boston’s Sam Cassell, Minnesota’s Micah Nori, Denver’s David Adelman and Miami’s Chris Quinn — conducted virtual meetings.

On May 29, Borrego became the first candidate to enter the Lakers’ facility to meet again with Pelinka and ownership.

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In the days before and after Borrego’s second in-person visit, some Lakers stakeholders believed the focus of the head coaching search centered on Redick. Given the lack of a championship experience-driven hire after Mike Budenholzer went to the Suns and the Clippers kept Ty Lue long-term on a five-year contract extension, league sources briefed on the matter say Redick’s chances grew for the Lakers, a high-ceiling candidate tasked to balance winning and development and allowed to coach through early mistakes.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came Dan Hurley. On June 6, ESPN reported that the coach of the back-to-back national champion UConn Huskies was the “target” of the Lakers’ search. Beyond Jeanie Buss and Pelinka, the pursuit was kept tight-lipped within the organization.

Only Pelinka and Jeanie Buss met with Hurley when he and his wife, Andrea, came to the Lakers facility on June 7.

Hurley left Los Angeles after being offered a six-year, $70 million contract, according to league sources briefed on the matter. He returned home to Connecticut to mull his decision while the basketball world waited.

On June 10, he announced he was staying with the Huskies. Hurley’s new contract with UConn is expected to make him the highest-paid coach in college basketball — six years and upwards of $50 million, league sources said.

Even though the Lakers moved quickly to offer Hurley a contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, several people inside the Lakers organization and externally wondered about the true overall genuineness of the pursuit and whether the franchise had been used by Hurley to get more money to stay at Connecticut. The Hurley situation was seen by one team source with direct involvement in the search as a Hail Mary attempt.

This much is clear, though: When it came to the Lakers’ ultimate decision-maker, Jeanie Buss, team sources said she was highly motivated to make Hurley their next coach and was genuinely disappointed when the attempt fell short.

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Hurley himself told Dan Le Batard, as he made the media rounds, that the Lakers’ interest started on June 5. He denied needing the leverage to get a raise at UConn on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” when asked about it, then later said the school’s name, image and likeness collective and his staffing payments still needed to be increased going into the Lakers’ process.

Just like that, Hurley was out of the picture almost as quickly as he’d entered it.

The Lakers’ brass regrouped on June 11, the day after Hurley’s announcement, and finally went all in on their top choice in Redick, according to team and league sources. After meeting with the Lakers on June 15, Redick spoke on the phone with Davis on Monday, a critical relationship in the years to come, the sources briefed on the situation said.

The decision to choose Redick came as the Lakers, led by Pelinka, prioritized Davis’ voice in the process and ensured that he understood the shared vision. Other key players were supportive of the hiring, those sources said.

Los Angeles is confident that Redick will be the long-term coaching solution that has eluded the franchise for over a decade.

Since Phil Jackson’s departure in the summer of 2011, the Lakers have now had seven different head coaches (eight if counting Bernie Bickerstaff’s five-game interim tenure in 2013). Winning hasn’t always equated to job security in Los Angeles: Frank Vogel won a championship in 2020 and was fired two years later. Ham made the Western Conference finals in 2023 and was gone one season later.

But the 39-year-old Redick checks many of the boxes on the Lakers’ extensive checklist for their next coach.He’s drawn internal comparisons to a young Pat Riley as a coaching prospect who jumped from playing to the broadcast booth to the coaching chair (though Riley spent two years as a Lakers assistant before taking the top job). Los Angeles is confident he can be its version of Erik Spoelstra or Steve Kerr — a culture-setter who can grow with the franchise for over a decade. There have been far more former-player, first-time head coaches who failed to meet expectations than those who succeeded, though, with the most recent examples including Steve Nash (Brooklyn), Derek Fisher (Knicks), Jason Kidd (Brooklyn) and Ham.

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Multiple sources briefed on the matter said one person who became a respected unofficial resource for the Lakersduring the process is legendary former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose deep knowledge of candidates, such asRedick and others, provides a lens into the culture the organization wants and the characteristics of a potential staff around the next head coach. Krzyzewski’s history with the Lakers goes back to 2004 when Dr. Jerry Buss made a strong yet unsuccessful offer to hire Coach K. Redick played for Krzyzewski at Duke from 2002 to 2006.

Assistant coaching candidates for Redick’s staff will include former head coach and recent Trail Blazers assistant Scott Brooks, former Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, ex-Laker and current Dallas Mavericks assistant Jared Dudley and Cassell, according to league sources.

The timing of Redick’s hire is notable, as he will join Los Angeles’ roster-planning ahead of the NBA Draft on June 26-27 — the first day the Lakers can trade their three tradeable picks (2024, ’29 and ’31). It also puts a leader in place ahead of James’ looming free agency. The 39-year-old superstar must decide whether to exercise his $51.4 million player option for the 2024-25 season by June 29. The Lakers are open to any contract structure that will keep James in Los Angeles, league sources told The Athletic.

James’ decision, and how the Lakers reshape their roster around him and Davis, will determine Los Angeles’ direction next season. But Redick’s arrival is a significant bet on an unproven coach — one the team is confident can bridge the gap into the next era of Lakers basketball.

(Top photo: Tyler Ross / NBAE via Getty Images)

Inside the Lakers' decision to hire JJ Redick and how he shapes their future (2024)

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