Opinion

Dan Hurley Would’ve Been Great For LeBron James, Now Maybe Jay Wright | Glenn Guilbeau

The best thing for LeBron James’ final years with the Los Angeles Lakers could have been Dan Hurley – the ultimate rah-rah college guy from Connecticut – as his head coach.

Yes, “A Connecticut Yankee In King LeBron’s Court” could have been the perfect novel for James, whose last four teams in Los Angeles have been mediocre for the most part with placeholder coaches. 

Hurley could have been in place, on his own terms and not hand-picked by LeBron, by Monday after meeting with Lakers’ chief owner/president Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka on Friday in Los Angeles and receiving what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has called a “massive long-term offer.” 

BREAKING: Dan Hurley Turns Down Lakers

That would’ve been for approximately $70 million over six years, but Hurley turned all down Monday and is staying at UConn and will try to win a third straight national title in the 2024-25 season.

OPINION: Dan Hurley Turns Down Kentucky 

“He told me they made a compelling case and presented him a compelling vision for him as their head coach,” Wojnarowski reported Monday. “But he loves what he has at UConn.”

Yes, a million times yes, 70 million times. 

Hurley would’ve been the perfect opposite of a placeholder coach. Now, the Lakers may try to get retired Villanova coach Jay Wright, who is 62 and has been out of the game for two years after winning national titles in 2016 and ’18. 

A college coach could be the answer for LeBron, who never went to college. That might be the closest thing. LeBron has tried to virtually coach the Lakers, and it hasn’t worked out. It’s time to listen to a coach, and not just hang out with the guy at games. Even Michael Jordan needed the Triangle offense of assistant coach genius Tex Winter and the guidance of head coach Phil Jackson to win the six NBA titles from 1991-98 with the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan, probably more than any other player in NBA history, could have coached that team. He largely did, but he doesn’t win all those titles without Jackson and Winter and just some guy coaching.

Darvin Ham’s first head coaching job anywhere was with the Lakers beginning in the 2022-23 season after a decade as an NBA assistant. He didn’t always seem that present in going 43-39 in the 2022-23 regular season, but the Lakers finished strong and reached the Eastern Conference finals before getting manhandled and swept by eventual champion Denver. This past year, the Lakers finished 47-35 and lost in the first round of the playoffs in five games to Denver. His team blew double-digit leads in all four losses and was soon fired.

Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel directed LeBron and the Lakers to the NBA title in the 2019-20 season after a 52-19 regular season, but that was the COVID year. He fell into mediocrity the next two years with one brief playoff appearance and was fired. James’ first coach with the Lakers was Luke Walton, who was quickly fired.

LeBron hasn’t had an elite coach since Tyronn Lue, who won the NBA title with LeBron in the 2015-16 season – the first and last for the Cavaliers. He and LeBron also reached the NBA Finals the next two seasons.

Hurley might night have been great right off with the Lakers. Wright may struggle, too. The job is actually not seen to be as great by NBA insiders as it is by fans. Billy Donovan was a great college coach who won two titles at Florida, but has been only slightly above average in the NBA at Oklahoma City and Chicago with limited success in the playoffs.

But this is the Lakers, and at least Buss’ and Pelinka’s talking plans are more about the future than keeping LeBron happy for another year or two. He has been playing like he’s in his early 30s, but he does turn 40 on Dec. 30.

Hurley could have made LeBron feel like he’s young again if he would have treated him like he was college age – in a good way. This would work for Wright as well. LeBron went right from St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio, to the Cavs in 2003 as their first pick, and there has been a revolving door of mostly lifer assistant pro coaches with varying degrees of success ever since. 

Wright is smart enough to not try to be Paul Westhead, whose textbook teachings as the Lakers’ coach reverted back to almost junior high and got him fired, basically by Magic Johnson in the 1981-82 season.

Would it have worked with Hurley? Maybe not. But Hurley was and Wright is a better direction in coaching than where the Lakers have been and each are much better choices than LeBron’s inexperienced buddy JJ Redick would have been.

Hurley instead will stay in his dynasty cocoon. Can’t blame him.

But he still has that blasted NIL and NCAA Transfer Portal with which to deal. Just minutes after beating Purdue, 75-60, on April 8 for the national championship in Glendale, Arizona, Hurley complained about the new NCAA system.

RELATED: UConn Wins National Title

“Unfortunately, we’re going to head into the portal, like everybody else now,” he lamented as if he was a kid who had to go home and do his homework. “I’ve been dreading this moment.”

Apparently, not that much, though.

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