The two most prominent names in the Lakers’ search to replace departing coach Luke Walton are former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams, and it’s because of their head coaching experience, according to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to publicly talk on the matter.
Another name that has surfaced to replace Walton, who agreed with the Lakers to mutually part ways on Friday, is Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard, these people said.
Howard’s lack of experience as a head coach will work against him, according to these people.
Lue and Williams are the front-runners because they have a combined eight years of head coaching experience.
After Magic Johnson stepped down as president of basketball operations in a surprising impromptu news conference Tuesday at Staples Center, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has been left in charge of the coaching search, according to one person.
Over the last few weeks when Walton’s job status was uncertain, former coaches Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd were mentioned as candidates.
Jackson, an NBA analyst for ESPN and ABC, is not expected to be on the list of people the Lakers interview, according to people.
All indications are that it will come down to Lue and Williams, both of whom had not been contacted by the Lakers as of Friday night, according to people familiar with the situation.
Lue, 41, checks a lot of boxes for the Lakers.
He is a former Lakers player who won NBA championships with them in 2000 and 2001.
He was the head coach of the Cavaliers for three-plus season until he was fired after starting 0-6 this season. He was first hired as the associate head coach of the Cavaliers in 2015 under David Blatt, but became the head coach on Jan. 22, 2016, after Blatt was fired.
Lue coached Lakers star LeBron James in Cleveland and the two of them led the Cavaliers to the NBA championship in 2016. Lue and James not only have a history of success but admiration for each other. The two helped engineer the Cavaliers to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to defeat the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers want a coach to hold all players accountable and Lue checks this box. During Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Golden State, Lue challenged James ina huddle during a timeout to be better and leadthe team. James bristled at Lue, but the coach didn’t back down to his star player.
Williams, 47, also checks a lot of boxes for the Lakers.
He played nine seasons in the NBA, was the head coach of New Orleans for five seasons, posting a 173-221 record and guided the Pelicans to playoff appearances in 2011 and 2015.
Williams was known among players as being a good coach with positive energy, but he took a no-nonsense approach.
Williams is now the lead assistant coach on Brett Brown’s staff in Philadelphia.
According to several people, if there are question marks about the Lakers’ job, they include:
— In the wake of Johnson resigning, how are things working in the Lakers’ front office?
— What will the team look like next season and can the Lakers get any of the top-tier free agents?
— What role will James and his agent, Rich Paul, play in the Lakers hiring of a coach?
Still, one person said, that wouldn’t stop Lue or Williams from accepting the job if it is offered.