Jay Wright connection proof the Lakers really are looking beyond the short-term

The Los Angeles Lakers have conducted a far wider search for a new head coach than some previously believed. That includes a thorough look at the NCAA.
Villanova v Kansas
Villanova v Kansas / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers have spent the better part of 2024 wondering how to move forward at the head coach position. Darvin Ham got off to a strong start to his tenure, leading the Lakers to the 2023 Western Conference Finals, but a tumultuous 2023-24 campaign proved to be his undoing.

The Lakers have since conducted a coaching search that has included a former NBA head coach, several assistant coaches, an NCAA champion, and an ex-player turned analyst.

Dan Hurley was previously at the heart of discussions across Lakers nation, but it appears as though he's not the only multi-time winner the front office expressed interest in. Much like Hurley, the other college basketball titan the Lakers had their eye on is a two-time NCAA Champion.

NBA insider Marc Stein reports that another name he was previously told to keep an eye on in the Lakers search was Villanova Wildcats legend Jay Wright.

"I had been warned early on by one well-placed insider, for what it's worth, to stay ready in case former Villanova coach Jay Wright emerged as a stealth candidate."

That's a fascinating revelation, as Wright, who retired from coaching in 2022, has long been on the NBA radar.

Wright's return to the spotlight is likely due to the success of his former players. In 2023-24, Villanova alumni led the New York Knicks to their best season since 2012-13, with the likes of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Josh Hart taking center stage.

They're just three of the names on the seemingly endless list of ex-Wright players in the NBA, with others including Saddiq Bey, Mikal Bridges, and Kyle Lowry.

While some might jump to the conclusion that the Lakers will try to poach some of that ex-Villanova talent, there's a bigger picture to evaluate here. With interest in Hurley and Wright, Pelinka is clearly placing an emphasis on finding someone who can develop talent.

A quick glance at the other rumored candidates, including David Adelman, Sam Cassell, Micah Nori, and Chris Quinn, will again reveal a group of individuals who share the common trait of helping NBA players find their niche.

On that level, JJ Redick has spoken about the importance of depth in the modern NBA. In other words: Every one of the rumored candidates to become head coach of the Lakers is someone who has expressed a clear understanding of the vitality of building a roster that isn't completely dependent upon just one or two players.

It's a shift in philosophy that has the Lakers in the midst of one of the most promising and exciting coaching searches in recent memory. It may also result in a long-awaited sense of roster and cultural stability.