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Los Angeles Lakers still holding out hope Doc Rivers becomes available

Vincent Frank
Los Angeles Lakers Doc Rivers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ search for a new head coach to replace Frank Vogel is moving at a snail’s pace. That’s by design as general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss do their due diligence.

It was reported immediately following Vogel’s firing that the Lakers wanted to see if Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers becomes available before making a final decision.

Fresh off a second-round exit at the hands of the Miami Heat, rumors suggested that Rivers could be done in Philadelphia after two seasons.

It’s something front office head Daryl Morey pushed back against in his season-ending press conference. In said meet-and-greet wih the media, Morey confirmed that Rivers would return for the 2022-23 season.

“I just think he’s a great coach. I love working with him. I feel like I’m learning from him. I think (GM) Elton (Brand) and I and him make a great team, and we’re gonna see where this journey takes us.”

Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey on Doc Rivers’ job status

Despite this, the Lakers are still holding out hope that Rivers somehow becomes available. NBA insider Marc Stein notes that the Lakers “have not completely abandoned hope” that Philadelphia might part ways with Rivers.

Again, there’s no sense of urgency here for the Lakers. While other teams in need of a new head coach would like to get something done ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23, Los Angeles doesn’t have a single selection in the annual event. Theoretically, the team could let this situation play out until July.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers news and rumors

Los Angeles Lakers head coach candidates and Doc Rivers

los angeles lakers, doc rivers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It was reported this past weekend that Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard had turned down overtures from the Lakers’ brass. That’s not too surprising given his current situation in Ann Arbor.

Assuming for a second that Rivers doesn’t become available, the Lakers have narrowed their list of candidates to three finalists.

  • Kenny Atkinson, Golden State Warriors assistant
  • Darvin Ham, Milwaukee Bucks assistant
  • Terry Stotts, former Portland Trail Blazers head coach

Of those three, only Ham would come to Los Angeles without any head-coaching experience. Atkinson, 54, is in his first season as one of the Warriors’ top assistants under Steve Kerr. He helped turn around the Brooklyn Nets from 2016-20 before the team moved on from him while the 2019-20 season was suspended due to COVID-19. Back in 2018-19, he led Brooklyn to a 42-40 record and a playoff appearance.

As for Stotts, he served as Portland’s head coach for nine seasons before being fired following a first-round exit in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. In his nine seasons in the Pacific Northwest, Stotts led the team to eight playoff appearances.

With all of that said, it’s no surprise that the Los Angeles Lakers might prefer Rivers to these three options.

To put this into perspective, the Los Angeles Lakers have earned two playoff appearances since the end of the 2012-13 campaign and are coming off an ugly 49-loss campaign.

Right now, the plan is to continue building around four-time NBA champion LeBron James. He’s said to have a preferred “guy” among the three aforementioned candidates.