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‘I want the coach to be Hurley’: Magic Johnson endorses Dan Hurley for Lakers job

Split image of Magic Johnson, left, and Dan Hurley
NBA legend Magic Johnson, left, wants Dan Hurley, who has led Connecticut to back-to-back men’s basketball titles, to become the next Lakers coach.
(Left: Richard Shotwell /Associated Press; Right: David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
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Magic Johnson didn’t hesitate.

The Lakers legend answered the question before late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel could finish asking.

Who do you like as the next Lakers coach, Dan Hurley or JJ Redick?

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“I like Hurley,” Johnson said. “I want the coach to be Hurley.”

Johnson made the comment during an appearance on Thursday’s episode of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which was recorded the same day news broke that the Lakers plan to offer their head coaching job to the man who led Connecticut to NCAA championships the past two seasons.

The Lakers are pulling a page out of Jerry Buss’ script, seeking the best coach at any level to help overhaul the team at a critical juncture.

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Before Thursday, the expectation from those outside the organization was that the job would eventually go to Redick, a former player and current broadcaster who hosts a podcast with Lakers superstar LeBron James but hasn’t coached above the youth level.

Hurley hasn’t coached at the pro level, but he’s done a masterful job in college. After two years at Wagner College and six at the University of Rhode Island, where he led the Rams to two NCAA tournament appearances, Hurley took the Huskies job in 2018. He is 141-58 in six seasons at Connecticut and 68-11 in the previous two seasons.

“He has a championship background,” Johnson told Kimmel. “He’s great with offensive and defensive strategy. I think that the players will respect him. And he’s tough. The Lakers gotta have somebody who will hold them accountable, right?

“And also we gotta play physical basketball. Denver will always beat us unless we become a much more physical team. So we gotta get more physical. That’s why these two teams are playing in the Finals, Boston and Dallas, because they’re mentally tough and they’re physically tough. We gotta get both mentally and physically tough.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Dan Hurley, a leading candidate to coach the Lakers who won back-to-back NCAA men’s basketball titles at UConn.

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Johnson spent his entire NBA career with the Lakers, winning five titles along the way, and over the years has also been a part-owner of the team and served as the president of basketball operations. He has no official capacity with the organization at this point but is close with owner Jeanie Buss and remains one of L.A.’s most beloved figures.

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Earlier Thursday, Johnson tweeted his excitement over the prospect of Hurley becoming the next Lakers coach.

“I heard the great news that Lakers Owner Jeanie Buss and GM/VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka have had conversations with back-to-back NCAA champion and current UCONN Head Coach, Dan Hurley, about becoming the next Lakers Head Coach!” Johnson wrote. “I’m so excited and thrilled!

“This would be a game changer for the Lakers organization, LeBron, AD [Anthony Davis], the rest of the Laker players, Laker Nation and the NBA! Coach Hurley can coach his butt off lol”

Hurley is expected to meet with the Lakers on Friday. The team interviewed New Orleans lead assistant James Borrego last week and has spoken to other candidates, including Redick, less formally.

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