HomeNewsDan Hurley's Rejection Hits Hard, But Lakers Can Bounce Back Stronger

Dan Hurley’s Rejection Hits Hard, But Lakers Can Bounce Back Stronger

Whether you’re a junior high student or a multibillion-dollar multinational megabrand, having your crush publicly reject you hurts.

However, this is nothing new for the Lakers. Dan Hurley’s decision to stay at the University of Connecticut as head coach should not be disastrous for Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, and the rest of the team. It ought to be a reality check.

Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams both rejected the Lakers’ contract offers in 2019, and it subsequently emerged that each thought the Lakers had undervalued them. “I just didn’t think I was treated fairly,” Lue later said. “And I wasn’t just going to accept any offer just to get a job.”

Just 2 weeks ago, Lue inked a 4-year, $14 million contract deal with the crosstown Los Angeles Clippers, the same team he had turned down a year before. In 2019, Williams picked the Suns over the Lakers for a five-year contract, and he currently earns more than $13 million per year as the Detroit Pistons coach.

Both numbers are higher than what the Lakers allegedly promised their top pick, Hurley, this time around. On Monday afternoon, league officials were assessing the Lakers’ offer to Hurley—6 years and $70 million—and wondering whether it was a good offer or another lowball.

It would have been a large payoff for a first-time NBA head coach, and Connecticut may have been unable to match it. However, others argued that if removing Hurley and his high-energy, culture-setting, creative approach from a golden college scenario was actually the Lakers’ moonshot move this summer, not providing him with a top-5 coaching salary was another lowball.

When the word surfaced last week that the Lakers were interested, the NBA was left wondering whether they were serious. That eventually swung the other way. The issue now is whether Hurley’s desire was genuine—not a position the Lakers wanted to be in.  So things are looking gloomy for the Lakers right now. But they have been bleaker, and not long ago.

In 2019, Frank Vogel was presented as head coach, even though he was just the Lakers’ third pick. Magic Johnson, the former club president and franchise icon, recently slammed Pelinka on national television for “backstabbing” him. At the time, the Lakers had missed the playoffs for 6 straight years.

Following their trade for Anthony Davis, the Lakers bounced back from settling for Vogel to win their 17th title. They then caught fire in the Orlando, Florida, bubble.

The Lakers’ roster is currently in a stronger position than it was in that tough spring of 2019, but they are still dealing with the same problems. In the abstract, the idea of becoming the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach is quite appealing. Excellent market, a draw for gamers, and an outstanding brand. However, the work is now incredibly tough.

Just once in the last 12 seasons—during their 2019–20 championship run—have the Lakers finished higher than 8th in the Western Conference. Their franchise player, LeBron James, will be 40 in December. They do not have any salary-cap room until James leaves in free agency. They have modest trading assets.

They play in a very competitive league where the teams behind them are upwardly mobile and ambitious, and the majority of the teams ahead of them will remain strong—or improve even more—shortly. Since they generate significant audience interaction all over the world, they have a sizable and demanding following and are frequently under scrutiny by the national media.

Vogel won the championship in 2020. Darvin Ham advanced to the Western Conference finals in 2023. Neither lasted more than three seasons. Since Phil Jackson, no other Lakers coach has done so.

These are some of the things Hurley surely considered before reaching his decision over the weekend. It’s difficult to measure what constitutes a “successful” season for the Lakers in 2024–25 without knowing what personnel alterations are made. Avoiding the play-in tournament would be an acceptable, if difficult, aim.

It’s reasonable to ask where the Lakers are today in their coaching search. Being turned down by a college coach isn’t the end of the world, but the Lakers’ procedure has put them in a sticky position, 5 weeks after Ham was dismissed. There are just 16 days before the 2024 NBA draft, when the Lakers will essentially begin free agency since they are likely to engage in trade negotiations. The formal start of free agency is just 4 days later.

Aside from Hurley, the only other contender reported to have visited Los Angeles is New Orleans assistant head coach James Borrego. He is presently a finalist for the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching position and is likely to interview in Cleveland early this week, with Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson also scheduled to visit, according to sources.

J.J. Redick has been linked to the Lakers position since Ham’s dismissal. Redick has been disciplined in avoiding openly criticizing the Lakers’ position during multiple media appearances in recent weeks, despite rumors swirling about him. However, his interaction with the organization was limited, according to insiders, which led to the Lakers’ active pursuit of Hurley.

The Lakers may feel pressed to sign another big name after Hurley turned them down, and Redick, despite his lack of experience, would qualify. But in 2019, after being turned down numerous times, Pelinka went with the steady Vogel and was rewarded, although in the short term.

Going for Hurley was bold and aggressive, but it also revealed a deeper truth: the Lakers weren’t impressed with the other viable choices. They may continue to seek outside the box, maybe even for another college coach, now that their desire to join that market has been made public. Another professional coach may find the deal Hurley turned down more appealing than Hurley did, particularly in today’s NCAA atmosphere.

As they face this problem they created, it could be tempting for those who dislike the well-known Laker exceptionalism to poke fun at them. However, history shows that the Lakers are seldom desperate, and even when things don’t go as planned, they usually have more choices than are immediately evident. This occurred with Vogel, who proved to be the ideal coach at the right moment. It might happen again, perhaps even to Redick.

Pelinka is in a difficult situation, but not an insurmountable one. His work on the roster this summer, at least in the near term, may prove more essential than this coaching hiring.

Abu Bakar
Abu Bakar
Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.


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