Lakers coaching update indicates a surprising shift in front office logic

Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers are shifting their priorities during the most important coaching search of the LeBron James era thus far.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers
Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

When Phil Jackson retired from coaching the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, massive shoes were inevitably left to be filled. While most agreed that it would be a challenge to find The Zen Master’s replacement, no one expected to see the Lakers go through seven coaches in 13 years.

As the Lakers embark on yet another pursuit of the right fit at head coach, it appears that the accusations of being shortsighted in the pursuit of a Jackson replacement may finally be addressed.

The Lakers are in an tenuous position with LeBron James entering his age-40 season. For as great and productive as the face of the Association remains, the organization is seemingly aware of the fact that Father Time will one day win the battle with the seemingly unbreakable four-time NBA champion.

No one is quite sure of when that day will actually come, and each season makes us question if it will even happen at all, but reality ultimately takes precedence over disbelief.

With the dismissal of Darvin Ham bringing about the latest chapter in the never-ending search for a sustainable solution at head coach, the Lakers are beginning to think beyond the era of James. Rather than finding a coach who the 39-year-old directly approves of, the franchise is looking at the bigger picture—a decision that James reportedly supports.

During a recent appearance on FanDuel TV’s Run It Back, NBA Insider Shams Charania revealed that James will not be a part of the Lakers’ head coaching search.

Lakers are finally planning beyond the LeBron James era

This is a report that many are likely to have a difficult time believing, but optimism would say that it's a sign of a front office that's coming to terms with reality.

James will turn 40 on December 30, which is an age that few NBA players have actually played until. The four-time league MVP has certainly broken the mold in terms of quality of play this late into a career, with averages of 25.7 points, 8.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals rivaling the production of elite players who are 10 years his junior.

The fact that James is still shooting at a clip of .540/.410/.750 may be even more impressive than his All-NBA level averages, as it's proof of how effective and efficient his offense remains.

Historically speaking, however, any player who’s in James’ age range is susceptible to a rapid decline—even if they do appear superhuman. With a player option for the 2024-25 campaign potentially signaling the final season of the four-time Finals MVP’s Lakers career, an individual decline may not even be necessary for Pelinka to have to look to the future.

Anthony Davis, meanwhile, is 31 years of age and coming off of a season in which he silenced many of his critics by appearing in 76 of a possible 82 regular season games—at 35.5 minutes per contest, no less.

Davis, who will also become a free agent in 2025, is coming off of one of the best individual seasons of his career. With averages of 24.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals on 55.6 percent shooting from the field, he looked the part of the two-way force that Lakers fans expect him to be.

A first-round exit ultimately put a damper on any excitement surrounding what the Lakers accomplished this season, but Davis averaging 27.8 points and 15.6 rebounds against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets was an encouraging sign of what the future may yet hold.

As the Lakers figure out how to convince Davis to re-sign next summer, tailoring the head coaching search to the long-term could be a massive step in the right direction. Rather than going all-in on one last hurrah, it appears as though the Lakers are looking to build something that can survive James either retiring or simply departing the organization as soon as next summer.

With Davis being eight years younger than James, it wouldn't require an appearance from Reed Richards to believe that his success has thus become the front office’s priority.

Trade rumors and free agency options will be the focus this offseason, but this may be the most important Lakers rumor in recent memory. Whether or not it rings true in the end is clearly a question that only time will answer, but it does show a level of rationale that past hiring processes have arguably lacked.

The Lakers are thinking beyond the short-term as they build for the future, and that alone should have fans excited about what a team with a long-term vision could achieve.