Sources: Lakers preparing massive offer to Hurley

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Sport

  • Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPNJun 6, 2024, 06:50 AM ET

The Los Angeles Lakers are targeting UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley as the franchise’s next coach and are preparing a massive, long-term contract offer to bring the back-to-back NCAA national champion to the NBA, sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have had preliminary contact with Hurley and the sides are planning to escalate discussions in the coming days, sources told ESPN. Hurley has been at the forefront of the Lakers’ search from the beginning of the process, even while the organization has done its due diligence interviewing several other candidates, sources said.

Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and governor Jeanie Buss are eager to formally discuss with Hurley their vision of marrying his dominant program — built upon his tactical acumen and his elite player development — with the storied Lakers brand, sources said.

Hurley, 51, has often described his ambition to one day coach in the NBA and has expressed to the Lakers a desire to explore the full picture of a partnership with one of basketball’s winningest franchises, sources said.

Hurley told UConn players at practice Thursday that the Lakers had contacted him and that he was listening to what they had to say, sources said.

The pursuit of Hurley comes on the 20th anniversary of the Lakers trying to hire then-Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to a record-breaking contract in 2004. Krzyzewski elected to remain with the Blue Devils, but the climate has dramatically changed in college athletics. The demands of NIL fundraising for non-power-football schools such as UConn are an especially relentless grind — and are expected to become even more difficult.

As for the Lakers’ stars, LeBron James has been impressed with Hurley’s sophisticated offensive actions. Assuming James returns to L.A. in free agency, the possibility of using the 55th pick in this month’s NBA draft on USC freshman guard Bronny James makes Hurley an even more intriguing candidate. If that happens, James gets a chance to play with his son and the benefit of Hurley and his staff becoming responsible for Bronny’s pro development.

In a social media post responding to a podcast interview with JJ Redick, James posted on X about Hurley: “He’s so DAMN GOOD!!! Along with his staff. Super creative with their [offense]. Love it.”

James has not had any conversations with the Lakers about Hurley or Redick, or the coaching search in general for that matter, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Thursday. James, through his representatives, has made it clear that the Lakers should do what is best for the organization and that he is mindful and respectful that the Lakers need to make a decision on a coach who will be with the team beyond his playing career.

The Lakers have been committed to making All-NBA forward Anthony Davis a significant part of the conversation on the next head coach and want to make sure he’s aligned with how a new coach plans to feature him on offense and defense, sources said.

The Lakers have had several interviews with other candidates, including New Orleans Pelicans assistant James Borrego, Redick, Boston Celtics assistant Sam Cassell and Denver Nuggets assistant David Adelman, sources said. The Lakers have proceeded with conversations with other candidates over the past few weeks, but the potential of landing Hurley has been the focus of the Lakers’ search, sources said.

Part of the allure of Hurley traces back to the changing landscape of NBA roster building under the collective bargaining agreement. Because of the roster-building limitations of the new second apron, the ability of big-market teams to construct contending rosters by trading multiple draft picks and young players for a third star player has largely been eliminated. Beyond the 17th pick in this month’s draft, the Lakers have a young core of Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and Max Christie that management believes can still show even greater improvement under Hurley’s coaching, sources said.

After historically dominant back-to-back national title seasons, Hurley has emerged as the most coveted coach in the sport — and the possibility of him leaving UConn and the Big East Conference for the Lakers has massive implications for college basketball and for the NBA. Hurley has constructed a juggernaut that has lapped the sport — culminating with the NCAA’s first repeat champion in 17 years and a tournament performance that produced the biggest point differential in tournament history: 140 points.

The possibility of UConn winning a third straight title looms with the return of a preseason top-five team, but the Huskies did lose two lottery picks (center Donovan Clingan and guard Stephon Castle) and a first-team All-America point guard (Tristen Newton) to the NBA draft.

The Lakers dismissed coach Darvin Ham after a first-round exit in the Western Conference playoffs. Ham was 94-70 in two seasons — including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2023.

Hurley is 141-58 (.709) in six seasons as the UConn coach, and he holds an NCAA tournament record of 12 consecutive double-digit victories. A son of Naismith Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr. — for whom Hurley played for at famed St. Anthony High School of Jersey City, New Jersey — Dan Hurley spent nine years as a high school coach at St. Benedict’s Prep before rapidly rebuilding college programs at Wagner and Rhode Island. His older brother, Bobby, is the head coach at Arizona State.

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