After a strong second interview where he came in ready to talk Xs and Os but also made an emotional connection with the franchise and owner Jeanie Buss, Tyronn Lue has been the frontrunner to land the Lakers head coaching job, sources had told NBC Sports. But the Lakers took their time, working on their own schedule, and no offer was made.
Now with Monty Williams off the table because he has agreed to go to Phoenix, the Lakers are going to make that offer to Lue, reports Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
The Lakers are going to take heat for this — “they hired a LeBron patsy” — but make no mistake, this is a good hire. Lue was LeBron James‘ hand-chosen guy in Cleveland, but he also did a good job as the coach getting them to play faster at first, keeping the defense up, and by the end coming up with some creative sets and plays. The fact Lue has a relationship with LeBron and can get in his face when LeBron is screwing up is a good thing. Lue has coached a team to a title, it’s not an accident, even if he was let go six games into this season.
Lue did have to step away from the Cavaliers at points to deal with anxiety-related mental health issues, and the Lakers’ job comes with a bright spotlight and a lot of pressure, but Lue has said he now has the tools to deal with those issues as they arise.
Is it a great hire? No. But what great hire was out there? This is a hire that can work for the Lakers.
The Lakers took their time with this decision in part because they didn’t like the perception that they would be caving in to LeBron’s demands, even though he made no such demand. The Lakers still seem uncomfortable dealing with a star like LeBron who wields so much influence and power. The Lakers walk on eggshells around him as an organization but don’t like the perception they walk on eggshells around him. There was some push for Williams as coach based on that perception (but perception is not why a coach should be hired).
The bigger question for the Lakers is what star player can they land to go next to LeBron? Do it via trade or free agency, but the Lakers need at least one more All-Star level player, then they need role players that better fit Lue’s system around them — which means the Lakers need more shooting. They need to develop and get the most out of their young players. The coaching certainly matters in all of that, but the real pressure is on Rob Pelinka and the front office. It doesn’t matter how good a coach Lue is if they can’t get him more talent.