It has been circa three weeks since the Los Angeles Lakers and Luke Walton parted ways, creating a head coaching vacancy within the organisation. Ever since, the same three names have been thrown around as being the Lakers’ preferred options in their candidacy search. Those names: Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, and Juwan Howard.
Both Lue and Williams have each had two interviews with the Lakers, but neither have received a job offer as of yet. Nor have they been notified when a decision will be made. The latter on May 3 accepted the head coaching position at the Phoenix Suns, thus ruling him out of the Lakers’ vacancy. Howard has also been interviewed, although many do see the current Miami Heat assistant coach as a distant candidate in the sweepstakes.
In addition, the team have interviewed former Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks head coach, Jason Kidd, however it seems like this is a none starter and Kidd is not in serious contention for the role.
Lue enjoyed an 11-year playing career starting in Los Angeles, where he won 2 NBA Championships with the Lakers in 2000 and 2001. After retiring in 2009, Lue joined the Boston Celtics as the director of basketball development. In July 2013, he then returned to Los Angeles this time with the Clippers, joining their coaching staff.
Just short of a year later, Lue signed for the Cleveland Cavaliers as an associate head coach, becoming the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA. After being touted for the head coaching job for a number of years, he landed the role following the mid-season firing of David Blatt in January 2016, signing a three-year contract. For the remainder of that season Lue coached the Cavaliers to an NBA Championship.
The following two seasons, Lue led Cleveland to two further Finals appearances in 2017 and 2018, losing to the Golden State Warriors on both occasions. At the start of the 2018/19 season he was dismissed from his position after an 0-6 start. Lue had a 128-83 record during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Tyronn Lue does fit the bill of being an ex-Laker, a feat that Jeanie Buss may actually be looking to avoid following the recent failures of coaches Byron Scott and Luke Walton, not to mention the Magic Johnson palaver. However, Lue has already had success with a LeBron James-led team in Cleveland and hosts a close relationship with Akron-born superstar. James is locked in with the Lakers for the next two seasons, with that Lue may be the most suitable option to bring success to the franchise in the short term.
The Lue-LeBron link does apparently fear the Lakers, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. In mid-April, Stein reported that the Lakers were worried that “hiring Lue would be giving LeBron James too much control”. On May 1, Stein added further detail suggesting that “James would be at his happiest and most engaged playing for Ty Lue”. Make of that what you will.
With Monty Williams having accepted a position with the Phoenix Suns, as of May 3, it has now been reported that the Lakers will turn their focus to Lue and name him as head coach (as per Adrian Wojnarowski).
Williams held a 9-year playing career from 1994 to 2003, with the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Following his playing career, Williams joined the San Antonio Spurs as a coaching staff intern, winning an NBA Championship in 2005.
Shortly after, Williams was then snapped up by the Portland Trail Blazers as an assistant coach to Nate McMillan. In June 2010, he signed a three-year contract to become the head coach of the New Orleans Hornets, at the time becoming the youngest coach in the NBA at 38 years old. In his first season in New Orleans, Williams led the team to the playoffs with a 46-36 record, losing in the first round. The following season, the team fell to a 21-45 record.
In August 2012, Williams signed a four-year extension in New Orleans, in that off-season the team drafted Anthony Davis. However, New Orleans slumped in the following two seasons with 27-55 and 24-48 records, respectively. The team did make the playoffs in Williams’ final season (2014/15) in New Orleans (45-37) but were eliminated again in the first round. Through five seasons, he had a 173-221 regular season record and a 2-8 playoff record.
Since his time in New Orleans, Williams was an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Additionally, he has enjoyed stints at the Oklahoma City Thunder as an associate head coach, and at the Philadelphia 76ers where he is currently a lead assistant coach.
You do get the sense that Monty Williams is a well-respected individual around the NBA, he’s definitely an established one. A report earlier this week from Marc Stein, again, suggested that Williams joining Phoenix is “gaining real momentum”. This proved to be true as Williams was named the Suns’ new head coach on May 3. Onto the next one, Lakers.
Howard possesses a longer playing career than Lue and Williams, having played his trade for 19 seasons, with 8 different franchises. He won two NBA championships back-to-back (2012 and 2013) with the Miami Heat, and you’ve probably guessed it already, on a team that hosted LeBron James.
Following his playing career, Howard moved into an assistant coaching role with Miami, a role that he has now held for 6-years. During his time with the Heat he has been serving as the team’s defensive coordinator, under head coach Erik Spoelstra. Interestingly, in the last four seasons the Miami Heat have had a top-10 defense in the NBA.
He has not held a head coaching role as of yet, so there is little to cover on the Juwan Howard front. However, during his interview with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Sugundo he did impress, according to Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times.
By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)