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Lakers agree to deal making J.J. Redick their next head coach

2024 NBA Finals - Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 14: JJ Redick smiles before the game between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks during Game Four of the 2024 NBA Finals on June 14, 2024 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Tyler Kaufman/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers are betting that J.J. Redick can be their next Pat Riley — the player turned broadcaster turned long-time coach who won rings and built something sustainable.

The Lakers and Redick agreed to terms to make him the next Lakers coach and he has moved on to setting up a staff, and while this had been expected the final details were broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This is a four-year contract reportedly in the neighborhood of $8 million a season (about an average salary for an NBA coach in the current market).

The Lakers will look to surround the inexperienced Redick with an experienced crew of assistants including a former head coach (Scott Brooks is one name floated early). Other names that have come up as assistants are the Celtics’ Sam Cassell, the Mavericks Jared Dudley and Rajon Rondo. However, hiring a high-quality respected assistant like Cassell or Dudley away from winning teams is not easy and would be very expensive.

Redick was one of the frontrunners from the moment the Lakers fired Darvin Ham, but the Duke graduate was not someone the Lakers front office knew well so it took time for some decision makers to warm up to him. The first conversations Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had with him were at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May. The Lakers made a serious but rapid attempt to hire UConn coach Dan Hurley, however he turned them down, and Los Angeles interviewed multiple other people including Pelicans assistant James Borrego (who is considered a frontrunner for both the Cleveland and Detroit coaching jobs).

This is a big roll of the dice for the Lakers — Redick has no high-level coaching experience as either a head coach or assistant. Redick replaces Ham, also a first-time head coach but a long-time right-hand man of Mike Budenholzer, who won a ring as an assistant with the Bucks and led the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals in his first season. However, Ham didn’t connect with Lakers players — Anthony Davis said, “We have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor” after a loss to the Nuggets — and veteran players on the team thought Ham was slow to make adjustments, particularly in the playoffs.

Redick takes over one of the most prestigious but challenging coaching jobs in the NBA. The Lakers judge success in banners, there is always pressure to win, but the expectations around the team — internally from the front office and externally from the massive fan base — often outstrip the talent on the roster. By a lot. The Lakers have finished seventh or lower in the Western Conference 11 of the past 12 years (the one year they finished higher, 2020, they won the title).

The Lakers had a crazy-long wish list for a new coach — someone who is strong with Xs and Os and a grinder of a coach, but also someone who connects with players, can command the locker room, can develop young players, and can build a foundation of long-term success. The Lakers want to continue to win now with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as their stars, but create a foundation of player development that can sustain winning long-term (not unlike what Pat Riley the executive built in Miami). That sounds great, but it’s a difficult balance to pull off, and the Lakers as an organization — especially under Pelinka — have long been willing to trade youth and draft picks for win-now veterans.

Redick checks some of the Lakers’ boxes. He is a podcast partner and tight with LeBron, and there is no way this hire goes through without at least a thumbs-up from LeBron and Davis. Redick’s basketball IQ is not in question — just listen to his “Mind the Game” podcast with LeBron — and he should be able to relate to players, something Wojnarowski said Lakers GM Rob Pelinka became sold on.

However, knowing Xs and Os and being able to coach them are two different things. The same is true of player development. Redick, the player, is a great story of development, changing his body and working on his game to become a top role player in the league and a feared shooter. However, doing it and setting up a system to teach it and get players to buy in are different things. How well Redick works as a manager of others with a lot of different responsibilities remains to be seen.

Redick, however, is going to get his chance. If he can live up to the high expectations, he will be part of a storied history of coaches and legends in one of the league’s great franchises. But there’s a long way to go between the hopes and making them happen.