Lakers land JJ Redick as new head coach after lengthy search

Jun 20, 2024, 1:55 PM | Updated: 1:58 pm

JJ Redick at NBA Finals...

JJ Redick is seen prior to Game Two of the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden on June 09, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — JJ Redick is being hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, a person with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the Lakers hadn’t yet publicly announced the decision to hire the former guard for his first coaching job.

The 39-year-old Redick is an extraordinary choice by the Lakers, who hired a 15-year veteran with absolutely no coaching experience to lead a franchise with 17 NBA titles, one of the biggest brand names in world sports — and LeBron James, the top scorer in league history.

Redick was a proficient outside shooter for six teams before his retirement in September 2021, when he moved into a career in broadcasting and podcasting. He joined ESPN’s lead commentary team earlier this year.

ESPN first reported the decision.

Before Redick finished broadcasting the NBA Finals, he met with the Lakers last weekend and apparently did well enough to end the franchise’s lengthy coaching search. Less than two weeks after UConn coach Danny Hurley turned down the Lakers’ ardent advances, Redick has accepted the job in a remarkable three-year journey from the court to the broadcast booth to the Lakers’ bench.

Redick replaces Darvin Ham, who was fired May 3 despite leading the Lakers to two playoff berths and a Western Conference finals appearance in 2023.

Redick began recording a regular podcast with James two months ago, and their “Mind the Game” collaboration is already wildly popular, with listeners often emerging impressed by the duo’s basketball acumen and high-level discussion of tactics and motivation.

Now these two minds will be working together for the Lakers, with Redick leading a roster headlined by James, who is six months younger than Redick.

Everything is contingent on James deciding to return to play with Anthony Davis and the Lakers, of course. James, who will enter his 22nd NBA season this fall, could decline his $51.4 million contract option this month to become a free agent.

But hiring Redick seems to be another calculated move by the Lakers to maximize their chances of keeping the 20-time All-Star and the driving force behind their 2020 championship team.

Redick’s coaching experience is limited to his children’s youth teams, but he has been around the game his entire life. He is the leading scorer in the history of Duke, where he played four seasons under Mike Krzyzewski.

And though Redick is an unorthodox choice, his unlikely ascent is not without some precedent in Lakers lore and recent NBA history.

Pat Riley was a broadcaster for the Lakers in November 1979 when Paul Westhead took over as their head coach after Jack McKinney nearly died in a bicycle accident. Westhead hired Riley as an assistant without coaching experience, and Riley became the Lakers’ head coach in late 1981 after Westhead clashed with Magic Johnson.

Riley promptly led the Lakers to four championships in the 1980s to begin his incredible career as a coach and executive.

And then there’s Steve Kerr, the former shooting guard and Phoenix Suns executive who had never coached before he took over at Golden State in 2014. Kerr has led Stephen Curry’s Warriors to four championships and six NBA Finals appearances in the past decade.

Redick’s arrival ends another unusual offseason coaching search for owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and the Lakers, who are hiring their eighth head coach since Phil Jackson’s final departure in 2011, and their fourth since James arrived as a free agent in 2018.

Los Angeles needed six weeks to settle on Ham in the summer of 2022, but the longtime assistant coach was dismissed after the Lakers lost to defending champion Denver in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Ham led the Lakers to two winning seasons and a victory in the inaugural In-Season Tournament last year, but many fans and observers — and, clearly, the Lakers’ front office — were not impressed by his leadership or preparation.

Davis memorably said during the playoffs that the Lakers “have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

The Lakers hired Ham after firing Frank Vogel, who had been fired exactly 18 months after he won a title in the Florida bubble. Vogel replaced Luke Walton after another long coaching search in which the Lakers were widely reported to have wanted Tyronn Lue, only for a deal to fall apart over issues with money and control.

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