By Diego Thompson
Juwan Howard is considered a favorite to land the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job in the wake of the team handing Frank Vogel his marching orders. Howard is said to have LeBron James’ respect, having worked with the star forward during his time with the Miami Heat, per Marc Stein.
The Lakers were among the favorites to land the NBA title after assembling a star-studded squad featuring James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony prior to the start of the season but failed to even make the playoffs, which are underway at the moment and present lots of opportunity via way of the latest sportsbook bonuses on the market.
Vogel has since been fired and the Lakers are in search of a new head coach.
Howard got on the end of some pretty bad press back in February when his actions sparked a brawl following a game between his Michigan Wolverines and the Wisconsin Badgers. The Michigan head coach was in a pretty bad mood after losing to Wisconsin and was particularly peeved by the opposing head coach, Greg Gard, calling a timeout late in the game despite being up a lot. Howard ended up striking the Badgers’ assistant coach in the face, immediately kicking off a melee between players from the two teams.
The 49-year-old was suspended by the program and there were fears he could lose his job. However, he is thought to be the frontrunner for the Lakers vacancy because of his relationship with James, among other things.
“The search for Vogel’s successor is widely expected to move slower than most because the Lakers need to find an established coach who can win LeBron James’ buy-in. The most capable coaches are obviously employed elsewhere already,” Stein reports.
“Michigan’s Juwan Howard is known to hold James’ respect after their time together in Miami but is said to be firm in his desire to stay with the Wolverines to coach sons Jace and Jett. Toronto’s Nick Nurse and Snyder – also frequently cited as candidates for the post – are not currently available, so pursuing them (or others under contract) comes with complications.”
Howard is also thought to have a relationship with Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka. And, while there is interest, it isn’t known if it’s mutual as Howard has deep ties to Michigan and might not be keen on leaving so soon.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report reports: “The Lakers do not seem interested in saddling a first-time coach with championship expectations. That may not apply to Juwan Howard, who has ties to Pelinka and James, was an assistant with the Miami Heat and previously interviewed with the franchise in 2019. While the Lakers may have interest in Howard, it’s unclear if he’s open to leaving Michigan with two of his sons on next year’s roster.”
The Lakers have made it clear that they are searching for someone who has experience and is well respected. Howard fits the description as he was successful as an assistant coach with the Heat and is now building an impressive CV in college basketball.
The team might have its work cut out in terms of convincing him to leave the Wolverines but there are some very worthy candidates out there.
The head coaching vacancy isn’t the only big decision the Lakers are mulling over at the moment. There’s also the matter of Westbrook’s contract. The point guard has a player option for $47 million this summer, which he is expected to pick up. Given his struggles during the season, the Lakers wouldn’t be blamed for not being eager to keep his deal on their books.
Apart from his dismal play, there was tension between Westbrook and the coaching staff
“Westbrook remained a professional throughout the season, but his partnership with Vogel failed to gain traction as the season went on,” The Athletic reported earlier this month.
“In an early-season film session, assistant coach David Fizdale challenged Westbrook on his shot selection, and the two had an animated exchange, sources said. That was one of the instances when Westbrook was challenged by a coach or teammate, and the style the coaching staff envisioned for Westbrook did not match what took place on the court.”
The Indiana Pacers are said to be a potential suitor for the veteran guard but his salary will make any trade negotiations difficult, especially as Los Angeles doesn’t have a first-round draft pick until 2027.
The Lakers could opt to keep him and see how things work out under a new coach but there’s also the option of buying the former MVP out of his contract.