Rich Paul sets record straight on LeBron’s role in Lakers coaching search

Klutch Sports CEO and longtime LeBron James affiliate Rich Paul has directly addressed the superstar's role in the Los Angeles Lakers coaching search.
Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game / Allen Berezovsky/GettyImages

When playoff games aren't being aired, all eyes are on the Los Angeles Lakers and their search for a new head coach. General manager Rob Pelinka has comprised a list of candidates that includes top assistants and a former player with ties to All-NBA mainstay LeBron James.

As reports swirl pertaining to the role that James will player in the search for a new head coach, one of his closest affiliates has decided to set the record straight.

Over the past 21 seasons, James and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul have played prominent roles in the restructuring of the NBA. Player empowerment has been a big part of their influence, as the proverbial playing field has been leveled between athlete and organization.

As such, many have been quick to assume that James will be making his voice heard when Pelinka ultimately decides who to hire as the Lakers' next head coach. A recent development, however, suggests that the front office will look beyond the James era when making a decision.

In an interview with Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Paul confirmed the report by speaking candidly about the role that James will play in the Lakers' coaching search—and who he believes the organization should actually be prioritizing.

"LeBron is not involved. That's accurate. I think it's hard for people to not want a narrative per se. There's a lot of false narratives out there. There's a lot of narratives that they feel like we drive, which I've gotten to the point where I don't pay attention to that anymore. I think the people that know if I have something to to say, I'll say it directly.

But as for the coaching search, this is a Lakers' decision. I always advise LeBron or anybody for that matter not to really position yourself in a manner of which you have a hand so strong in a decision that could come back to bite you down the road. With every team he's been on as the best player, you have some type of insight or the team may ask about your thoughts.

That goes for every superstar. In my opinion, the Lakers focus should probably be more so on Anthony Davis than LeBron at this point. I think for him being so good for so long, people just think he controls the team. There's no controlling of the team. And JJ is a friend. We respect JJ. I know LeBron and JJ have the podcast. I did JJ's podcast. Me and JJ talk hoops all the time. He does know hoops. But just because they have a podcast, the Lakers have to make a decision for now and later.

And whatever that decision is, that'll be an organizational decision. It's as simple as that."

Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul

It was an eye-opening discussion, especially when considering the fact that Paul is as connected to James as anyone in the public eye.

Rich Paul says Anthony Davis should be Lakers' focus, not LeBron James

The first piece of information to unpack is Paul directly stating that James is not involved in the decision about who the next head coach will be. It's a direct acknowledgment of the league-wide speculation that would suggest otherwise.

As James prepares for his age-40 season, however, it's conceivable that he's looking to be a part of what the Lakers are building instead of the focal point of it. It wouldn't be a gigantic leap of faith to believe that such an approach could help extend his NBA career.

James' quality of play and production earned him a place on the All-NBA Third Team in 2023-24, but even the seemingly invincible four-time MVP has his limits.

As such, passing the baton to a new franchise player could be the perfect recipe for James to continue playing at a high level. Thankfully, James' co-star, Anthony Davis, has been up to the No. 1 task when healthy.

That was evident in 2023-24, when Davis appeared in 76 games and earned All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive First Team honors.

In terms of how he plays when the pressure mounts, Davis remains among the best in the NBA. He boasts career postseason averages of 26.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.3 steals on 54.2 percent shooting from the field.

More importantly, Davis was nothing short of spectacular when he and James led the Lakers to the 2020 NBA championship.

It's also worth noting that Davis was arguably the best Lakers player when the team reached the Western Conference Finals just one season ago. He dominated defensively against the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, and was far better against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets than he's been given credit for.

As such, the evidence exists that Paul is right in perhaps his most powerful statement: It's time for the Lakers to build around Davis rather than James.

Based on what Paul and recent reports are stating, it appears as though Pelinka is going to embrace that approach when hiring the next head coach. It's entirely possible that James affiliate JJ Redick will be hired, but it seems that such a decision would be handled with Davis' best interest in mind.

James may make history with every passing season, but the Lakers have reached a stage at which they must plan for a future beyond him.