Skip to main content

7 Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates to replace Darvin Ham, including JJ Redick

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers were handed another playoff exit by the Denver Nuggets this week, but this time in the first round of the NBA playoffs. While Darvin Ham survived in-season rumblings during the regular season, he did not get far into the offseason before the organization decided to oust him from his job after two seasons. That’s why it’s time to evaluate Lakers coaching candidates to replace him in 2024-25.

Ham was on the NBA coaching hot seat for most of the year, fighting off rumors and first receiving a vote of confidence from the organization. Unfortunately for him, a first-round exit in the playoffs paired with a recent poll by The Athletic painted a picture of a coach on his way out of town.

On Friday the Lakers finally pulled the trigger on what had been rumored for months and they have reportedly fired Darvin Ham following a 47-35 finish to the 2023-24 season.

Related: Best NBA players of all time, including Los Angeles Lakers legends

Let’s examine potential Lakers coaching candidates to replace Ham in Los Angeles.

JJ Redick, NBA analyst and former player

Los Angeles Lakers coaching canddates, JJ Redick
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Experience should be prioritized in the Lakers coaching search, but it’s not something that guarantees success. Before becoming a four-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr had never served as a head coach or assistant at any level. Some in the NBA are hoping that path can be followed by JJ Redick.

There have been opportunities for him in the past to become an assistant coach. Teams previously reached out to Redick, but the freedom of being an NBA analyst and working his own schedule was more appealing than serving on the bench as the second or third assistant on a staff. One thing that’s never been doubted, however, is Redick’s basketball IQ, media savvy and how well he gels with other players.

One appealing factor for Los Angeles would be Redick’s relationship with LeBron James. The two were friends before hosting a podcast together, but the new in-depth show further highlights Redick’s mind for the game and how many concepts and beliefs he shares with James. The Lakers would need to put a very experienced staff around Redick, but he’s very much in consideration as one of the Lakers coaching candidates in 2024.

Tyronn Lue, Los Angeles Clippers head coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates, Tyronn Lue
Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the longest of longshots among the Lakers coaching candidates in 2024. The Lakers had their shot at Lue a few years ago, but ownership was only willing to offer him a three-year deal worth $18 million. Not only was it well below the five-year, $35 million deal he had with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it also poorly reflected the rising costs of head-coaching salaries.

Fast forward a few years later and the Lakers’ penny-pinching has already proven costly. If they wanted Le in 2024, the going rate for top NBA head coaches starts at $13 million annually, with Gregg Popovich ($16 million AAV) and Erik Spoelstra ($15 million AAV) well above that. There’s also the matter of fact that Lue is still under contract with the Los Angeles Clippers for one more season, meaning the Lakers would need their rival to grant permission for an interview.

Related: NBA insider reveals which team LeBron James is expected to sign with

However, Lue is also the clear and obvious choice in a Lakers coaching search. There are few better in the NBA at the Xs and Os, with Lue’s rotations and in-game adjustments making him one of the best coaches in basketball. Replacing Ham with Lue would be the equivalent of the Lakers adding a significant player to their roster. However, barring a stunning decision by the Clippers’ front office to allow Lue to speak with the Lakers, an interview isn’t happening let alone a hiring.

Charles Loss, Boston Celtics assistant coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates, Charles Lee
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s become apparent in the Lakers coaching search that experience as an NBA head coach isn’t mandatory. Not only is JJ Redick under consideration, but Shams Charania of Stadium reports that Boston Celtics assistant coach Charles Lee is one of the top Lakers coaching candidates.

Lee, age 39, would become one of the youngest coaches in the NBA. He started his coaching career at Bucknell (2012-’14) before Mike Budenholzer added him to the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff (2014-’18). When Budenholzer left to take over as the Milwaukee Bucks coach, he brought Lee with him and the assistant remained in Milwaukee until the 2023 season.

A former shooting guard who played overseas, Lee’s experience both under Budenholzer and then in the Boston Celtics’ system is certainly appealing. Already in the running for the Charlotte Hornets’ head-coaching vacancy, Lee has a good reputation among players and has a good understanding of the Xs and Os of coaching. However, considering how poorly things went with the last Budenholzer assistant (Darvin Ham), it would be relatively surprising if Lee becomes the Lakers coach.

Mike Budenholzer, former Milwaukee Bucks head coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates, Mike Budenholzer
Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

One thing the 2023-’24 Milwaukee Bucks have proven is that Mike Budenholzer was quite the scapegoat. Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted Adrian Griffin, he got his wish and it blew up in the face of the Bucks’ organization. Granted, Milwaukee’s decision-making process (Doc Rivers) hasn’t generated anything better. The one obvious thing, Budenholzer wasn’t the entire problem.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers’ stance on issues between Darvin Ham, Anthony Davis

Budenholzer, age 54, should have another opportunity to have a team. A two-time NBA coach of the Year with five titles, including one as a head coach, he brings playoff experience and a background working with star players. While there might be some hesitancy considering Ham came from the Budenholzer tree, the current Lakers’ coach has proven he might not have picked up much from that time. Budenholzer would be an upgrade for Los Angeles and he might be one of the safer options, too.

Kenny Atkinson, Golden State Warriors assistant coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates, Kenny Atkinson
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another familiar name among Lakers coaching candidates. Los Angeles targeted Kenny Atkinson then he was poised to take over for the Charlotte Hornets in 2022. However, that move meant relocating his family or being away from them for a long time. An assistant for the Golden State Warriors since 20021, before that with the Los Angeles Clippers (2020’21), Atkinson’s name could pop up in the Lakers coaching search again

Related: NBA insider reveals when Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is expected to retire

Before touching on what Atkinson could bring for the Lakers, it’s worth revisiting his stint with the Brooklyn Nets. Well-regarded for his background in player development, Atkinson took over a Nets roster in a dire spot. He helped rebuild it from a 20-win team in his first season (2016-’17) to a 42-win team three years later. Then, he was pushed out the door so Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant could be coached by Steve Nash.

Atkinson did have some issues with the finer points of coaching, which separates decent coaches from great coaches. That’s why he has spent so much time with Steve Kerr. The experiences he gained paired with his analytically-driven mind could be a huge benefit to Los Angeles. Plus, unlike with Charlotte, the Lakers would be more willing to let Atkinson build his own coaching staff.

Phil Handy, Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates 2024
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One interesting layer for a Lakers coaching search is the future status of LeBron James. While the 39-year-old is no longer the best player in the NBA, he’s still performing at an All-Star level. He’s also maintained his dominance in the playoffs, coming through with great numbers in the series against Denver. However, he could opt out of the final year of his contract. Any decision he makes would likely be influenced by the Lakers coaching search this offseason.

Related: NBA games today

However, James isn’t the only reason that assistant coach Phil Handy is considered among our Lakers coaching candidates. As previously reported by Hoops Wire, the locker room wanted Handy to replace Ham as head coach earlier in the season. Ownership was against the move then, but that could change after a first-round playoff exit to Denver.

If Los Angeles is determined to keep LeBron, he does have a relationship with him dating back to winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Handy has also been with the Lakers organization before (2011-’13) he joined the club in 2019 as an assistant. The 52-year-old has certainly earned the opportunity to be a head coach and would have the support of the locker room, it’s just a question of whether or not Los Angeles would want to roll the dice on a first-year head coach.

Terry Stotts, former Portland Trail Blazers head coach

Los Angeles Lakers coaching candidates, Terry Stotts
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Fired by the Portland Trail Blazers after a first-round exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Terry Stotts made his way back to the bench in 2024. However, it was a short-lived stay with the Milwaukee Bucks, because Stotts stepped down following an incident with Adrian Griffin. Los Angeles could be his new opportunity.

Stotts was on the radar for the Lakers coaching search in 2022, but that was to serve as an assistant to Frank Vogel. He turned it down and was hopeful a return to Milwaukee would provide him with the chance to revitalize his coaching career. Considering how things unfolded for Griffin in Milwaukee, Stotts seemingly wasn’t the problem.

Also Read: Best second-round picks in NBA history

If Los Angeles wants a coach who has experience working with star players, Stotts has that. He’s also well-liked by players, which would be beneficial considering the issues with Ham this season. Plus, his rotations and offense would likely be an improvement over what Los Angeles got under Ham, though, improving the roster would also be critical.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: