Following back-to-back playoff appearances, including an NBA Championship during the 2019-20 season, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves on the outside looking in this past season following a 33-49 record.
The disappointing outcome from the 2021-22 campaign resulted in the Lakers departing from Head Coach Frank Vogel, who sported a 127-98 record during his two-year stint with Los Angeles. According to reports, Michigan Head Coach Juwan Howard recently declined any interest to interview with the Lakers for the head coaching vacancy and will remain with his alma mater.
Here, we discuss the best fits for the Los Angeles Lakers, who will desperately attempt to find themselves back into contention next season in a competitive Western Conference:
Kenny Atkinson, Golden State Warriors Assistant
With a specialty in player development, Kenny Atkinson has spent the last two seasons working under talented head coaches in Tyronn Lue and Steve Kerr. To his credit, Atkinson’s current run with the Golden State Warriors has resulted in a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Prior to his tenures with the Clippers and Warriors, Atkinson spent time with the New York Knicks (2006-12) and Atlanta Hawks (2012-16) as an assistant. In 2016, Atkinson was hired as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in which he led his team to the NBA Playoffs once across four seasons.
While the Lakers are in win-now mode, Atkinson increases the value of younger players such as Talen Horton-Tucker, who left a lot on the table this past season.
Darvin Ham, Milwaukee Bucks Assistant
Within NBA circles, Darvin Ham is considered a promising future head coach. Hired as an assistant by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018, Ham was part of the team’s championship run during the 2021 season. He previously spent time as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers (2011-13) and Atlanta Hawks (2013-18). Prior to coaching at the NBA level, Ham was an assistant for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds (2008-10) before spending the 2010-11 season as the head coach of the New Mexico Thunderbirds in the NBA Development League.
Having played in the league for nine seasons, Ham is praised for his ability to communicate with players. Despite no head coaching experience at the NBA level, Ham has been surrounded by veterans on coaching staffs such as Mike Brown and Terry Stotts.
Doc Rivers, Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach
According to reports, the Los Angeles Lakers have not yet ruled out the possibility of hiring Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who committed to the 76ers on a long-term contract prior to the team’s second round exit from the NBA Playoffs this past season. Rivers has quite the history with the city of Los Angeles, winning an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics during the 2008 season, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals in doing so. Rivers also spent the 2013-20 seasons as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
As one of the winningest coaches in league history, Rivers has been integrated with the NBA as a player or coach for nearly 50 years. His experience with star players gives the Lakers the best chance at stability within the coaching staff, however, the 76ers have given no indication that Rivers would be leaving the franchise this offseason.
Terry Stotts, Former Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach
Terry Stotts brings experience to the table, having most recently spent time as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers (2012-21). During his tenure with Portland, Stotts has coached superstars such as Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony. Prior to his time with the Trail Blazers, Stotts served as an assistant for the Seattle SuperSonics (1992-98), Milwaukee Bucks (1998-2002), Atlanta Hawks (2002-04), Golden State Warriors (2004-05), and Dallas Mavericks (2008-12). From 2005-07, Stotts was named as the head coach of the Bucks.
The experience of Stotts in both the regular season and playoffs should speak volumes to the Los Angeles Lakers. With Portland, Stotts has been as far as the Western Conference Finals. Despite no direct NBA Finals experience, this could be a seamless fit for the Lakers moving forward.