After countless weeks of drama, rumors and even a fan-orchestrated protest outside Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers have found their head coach. Frank Vogel will now be in charge of facilitating a winning product on the court–and helping to figure out how in the world to repair the organization’s broken reputation off it.
Along with Vogel, 10-time NBA All-Star and Lebron James’ former Olympic teammate Jason Kidd will serve in a particularly prominent role as the team’s assistant coach. Both Vogel and Kidd have had previous stints as head coaches with NBA franchises.
The hires come on the heels of several tumultuous weeks in Lakerland. Things began to unravel on April 9 when Magic Johnson stepped down from an administrative role in an unprofessional, seemingly impromptu press conference before the team’s final game of the season.
Johnson cited his sibling-like relationship with the Lakers’ controlling owner Jeanie Buss as the reason for his sudden departure.
“[Jeanie] gave me full power to do what I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “But I want to always preserve our relationship [and] tomorrow I would have to affect [Walton’s] livelihood and [his] life, and that’s not fun for me.”
Johnson’s resignation was shocking — and in all honesty, the way in which he did it was extremely childish. But make no mistake: it was for the best.
Team presidents must be in the trenches around the clock with their staff in terms of scouting, daily accessibility and general franchise management.
Johnson, a Los Angeles icon and esteemed businessman with dozens of interests outside of the Lakers organization, was not the right fit for such a role.
In his absence, the Lakers were left with a front office power vacuum which is yet to be officially filled. This raised many concerns as the franchise searched for its next head coach. Shortly after the end of the Lakers’ season, it was rumored that Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams and former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue were the top candidates for the job.
Williams has since agreed to coach the Phoenix Suns. Lue reportedly turned down a three-year offer from the Lakers, feeling that a five-year deal would have been appropriate considering his championship resume.
The turbulence in the head coaching position is nothing new for the Lakers. Vogel is the sixth head coach for the Lakers since the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson in 2011.
While Vogel — whose tenure with the Indiana Pacers included two Eastern Conference Finals appearances — is now officially the head coach, it remains unclear where the decision-making power in the front office lies, and many questions remain unanswered.
Kidd’s hiring, at the very least, was controversial.
In 2001, he pleaded guilty to spousal abuse. In 2012, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and in 2014, he received criticism for pursuing the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching position while he was still serving as coach of the Brooklyn Nets. His history as a coach and his evident eagerness to lobby for a fellow coach’s job will likely add yet another layer of drama to the ongoing Laker saga in the coming seasons.
Kidd’s prominent role in the organization also creates the perception that Vogel, before even coaching a game for the Lakers, is already on the hot seat.
If the team’s goal is to win multiple NBA championships in its last three season with LeBron James, the Lakers organization must demonstrate a higher level of cohesion and stability from the top of the front office to the end of the bench – values they’ve been lacking recently.
The unfilled power vacuum left by Johnson along with Kidd’s controversial hiring will be a hindrance for the team.
This offseason, possibly more than ever before, all eyes in the NBA world will be focused on the Lakers.