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Lakers Keep Trick Up Their Sleeve With 2-Time NCAA Champion

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka

Over the past week, reports suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers have yet to decide on their head coach.

ESPN analyst and former NBA guard JJ Redick emerged as the favorite early on. Indeed, the job seemed like his to lose. However, when the Lakers made a massive $100 million offer to UConn head coach Dan Hurley over the weekend, their interest in the two-time NCAA champion was said to be longstanding. In fact, Hurley has been characterized as their top candidate from the beginning.

(Update: Hurley’s offer was reportedly for six years and $70 million)

That L.A. would have Hurley on their initial wishlist is believable due to his success with the Huskies. Furthermore, college coaches have been willing to make the jump to the NBA level before. Billy Donovan and Brad Stevens have taken that leap within the last decade, or thereabouts. Quin Snyder, Missouri’s head coach from 1999 to 2006, even took his lumps as an NBA assistant coach. However, legendary college coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright have declined to take jobs in the NBA. As a result, there’s been doubt that Hurley takes a job equal parts dream and nightmare.

Interestingly though, Krzyzewski has said he would have left college for the NBA today due to the strain the transfer portal places on head coaches:

It’s too much,” Krzyzewski says on The Brotherhood Podcast. “You’re constantly recruiting your own players. The time for that. I wouldn’t want to do that.”

This provides intrigue about whether Hurley —known to have a distaste for the portal himself —would actually take the Lakers’ job.

Lakers Keep Trick Up Their Sleeve With Jay Wright

On the heels of the Hurley news, NBA insider Marc Stein reports that he “had been warned early on by one well-placed insider… to stay ready in case (Wright) emerged as a stealth candidate.”

Wright may or may have rejected an offer from the Philadelphia 76ers in 2020, but retired in 2022. As a result, the recent changes in the NCAA likely have no bearing on whether he accepted one. However, after a couple of seasons away from the sidelines, his batteries might be recharged.

If Wright returned to coaching, and for the Lakers no less, it would arguably be even more fascinating than a Hurley addition. Wright became one of the most popular coaches in basketball in his time at Villanova, both because he led them to two national titles and his affable personality. Indeed, this may be the biggest intangible difference between he and Hurley, with the latter having a more biting style.

To many, this will be his biggest obstacle in the NBA. Multi-millionaire athletes being a different beast to tame than college-aged kids.

In terms of his on-court philosophy, Wright ran a modern 4-out motion offense with the Wildcats that should translate well to the NBA.  His defense is a question as he usually allowed ball-handlers middle penetration and often ran a zone. However, as zone defense has become more prevalent, that could be a benefit of his hire. That said, Hurley could very well be the better coach, with his creative offensive sets and emphasis on toughness on defense.


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