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Dan Hurley’s candidacy surprised some within Lakers, but it makes sense


Dan Hurley’s candidacy surprised some within Lakers, but it makes sense

The stunning news of the Los Angeles Lakers and Connecticut coach Dan Hurley being in contact about the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy shocked many in the NBA — and some inside the franchise’s own walls.

The organization’s courting of Hurley, first reported by ESPN and confirmed Thursday by The Athletic via team and league sources, was kept secret from the public and even several key Lakers decision-makers.

Within some internal conversations, Hurley’s name began coming up as recently as last week, team and league sources told The Athletic. At the time, the likelihood of Hurley’s being the team’s next head coach seemed farfetched. JJ Redick, the ESPN analyst and former player, was seen as the frontrunner by many in the NBA and Lakers organization, and also under consideration was James Borrego, the New Orleans Pelicans’ associate coach who has maintained a strong relationship with All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.

Now, Hurley, who led Connecticut to back-to-back national championships, has emerged as a legitimate candidate, if not the favorite.

Team and league sources cautioned that the coaching search remains far from settled. Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and governor Jeanie Buss will interview Hurley in a more formal manner on Friday, league sources confirmed. There is still a chance the 51-year-old will work out a new contract with Connecticut and remain college basketball’s top coach. Hurley signed a six-year, $32.1 million deal with Connecticut after the 2023 championship season. His buyout to join the NBA would be roughly $1.9 million.

Redick, considered the front-runner for weeks, remains a viable candidate, according to league sources.

Hurley’s profile appeals to the Lakers. He checks many of the boxes the Lakers have been looking for during this process. He’s regarded as a tireless worker who is both organized and disciplined. He’s a proven tactician, running one of the best offenses in college basketball. He helped return UConn to glory after the program went nearly a decade without advancing past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He’s also sharp with player development and is known as a strong culture-setter with a fiery personality.

It’s unclear how Los Angeles’ stars feel about the potential of Hurley as the team’s coach. Davis’ input has been at the center of the Lakers’ search, and he has a solid rapport with Borrego, who he overlapped with briefly in New Orleans. James tweeted his support of Hurley’s offensive system in April — ironically in response to an interview between Redick and Hurley on Redick’s “Old Man & The Three” podcast. James has a $51.4 million player option for next season.

Legendary former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who, according to multiple sources, has become a respected unofficial advisor to the Lakers during the hiring process, has a strong relationship with Hurley. Krzyzewski coached Hurley’s older brother, Bobby, at Duke from 1989 to 1993, winning back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992. Back in March, Dan Hurley said that Krzyzewski pushed him to take the UConn job in 2018 and that the two speak at least twice yearly.

Though Krzyzewski also has ties to Redick, who played under him at Duke from 2002 to 2006, his relationship with Hurley and the belief he has shown in him has been one of the many factors in the process that has led the Lakers to aggressively pursue him, according to team and league sources.

Krzyzewski’s history with the Lakers goes back to 2004, when then-owner Dr. Jerry Buss made a strong offer to hire him away from Duke, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The Lakers tried to lure Krzyzewski with a five-year, $40 million contract, which was an astronomical figure for a coach at the time. The market has since reset with coaches such as Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra, Monty Williams and Mike Budenholzer commanding eight-figure annual contracts.

Time will tell if history repeats itself with Hurley also returning to UConn on a higher salary or if he ends up accepting a lucrative offer to leave Storrs, Conn., to coach one of the NBA’s legacy franchises across the country. Despite the shock of Thursday’s developments, the latest curveball has yet to resolve the Lakers’ ongoing coaching search.

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