Lakers must not repeat same subversion tactic that doomed Frank Vogel

As head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Frank Vogel faced hurdles before he could even begin the job. Is Los Angeles repeating those same mistakes?
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the few teams that can create headlines with rumors of a potential assistant coach. For that matter, the Lakers may also be one of the few teams being connected to assistant coaches before a head coach can even accept the job.

In the case of the most recent rumor pertaining to the Lakers coaching staff, however, there's a significant reason for optimism—and an equally as powerful reason for trepidation.

The Lakers have been tied to a number of head coaching candidates, including James Borrego, Sam Cassell, and JJ Redick. In the same week that Los Angeles is conducting second interviews, both Borrego and Cassell, as well as former Laker Jared Dudley, have appeared in new reports as potential assistant coaching options.

According to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times, two new names have been added to the fray as potential assistant coaches for the Lakers: Scott Brooks and Rajon Rondo.

"Rumors of the Lakers' staffing plans have run throughout the league during the past two weeks, with some names most commonly mentioned including former head coach Scott Brooks and assistants Sam Cassell and Jared Dudley. Ex-Lakers guard Rajon Rondo has also been under consideration, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly."

A new head coach has not yet been hired, but with Redick emerging as the rumored front-runner, the goal is clearly to surround him with experienced assistants.

It looks good on paper, but the Lakers have done this before

None are guaranteed to join the Lakers, but a staff including Borrego, Brooks, Cassell, Dudley, and Rondo would be excellent. Borrego and Brooks have head coaching experience, while Cassell, Dudley, and Rondo are respected former players and NBA champions.

On paper, even just some combination of those individuals as assistant coaches would give the Lakers one of the best sideline units in the NBA.

For as intriguing as it all appears to be, however, one can't help but think back to when Frank Vogel was hired as head coach in 2019. Vogel was an intriguing hire who had previously led the Indiana Pacers to multiple Eastern Conference Finals appearances.

Despite Vogel's experience, general manager Rob Pelinka made the decision to hire Jason Kidd as an assistant coach—rather than allowing Vogel to make the call on who he wanted on his staff.

The Lakers would ultimately win the 2020 NBA championship, but speculation immediately mounted that Kidd was hired as Vogel's successor. Kidd would instead leave the Lakers in 2021 to coach the Dallas Mavericks, but in many eyes, the damage was done.

Vogel did his best to block out the noise and lead his locker room, but the Lakers undermined him as soon as he got the job—and the explanations for why he was ultimately fired have been confusing, at best.

Is flawed Lakers history repeating itself?

As the Lakers embark on yet another coaching search, assistant coaches are already being identified in rumors before a head coach has been hired. It's eerily reminiscent of the Lakers deciding on Kidd as an ideal mentor to Lonzo Ball—who ended up being traded soon thereafter—and coach for LeBron James before Vogel had a chance to make decisions for himself.

The question, of course, is whether this is actually a case of history repeating itself or if the Lakers are acting with information provided by the favored candidate.

Rumors are circulating that Redick is not only the favorite to land the job, but is already reaching out to potential assistant coaches. If that's truly the case, then this is much ado about nothing, as the next head coach of the Lakers is simply doing his due diligence.

In the event that the rumors prove untrue, however, then the Lakers are returning the roots of what set Vogel up to fail from the start.

This isn't to say that Vogel would or wouldn't have been more successful with his own staff. It's simply a matter of positioning coaches to do their jobs without unnecessary hurdles, which the Lakers failed to do from the very start of his tenure.

One can only hope that the rumors of potential assistant coaches are derived from the next head coach's own preferences, as a repeat of Lakers history will likely yield similar results.