Grading the Lakers Coaching Hire of JJ Redick, and Some Thoughts on the Pistons Firing Monty Williams

June 20th, 2024

by Alan Lu

Today, the Los Angeles Lakers hired J.J. Redick to be their newest head coach. Redick played 15 years in the NBA, led a couple of prominent well-known podcasts such as Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter and Mind the Game with LeBron James and JJ Redick, and was also a prominent ESPN analyst.

JJ Redick will be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2024-25 NBA season.
(Photo: Peter Casey/USA Today Sports, via The Guardian)

When he played, Redick was a superstar in college basketball, and he also played a rather unique role in the NBA, as he was a sharpshooting guard that can really knock down shots, and he also excelled at moving off the ball on offense to make them. In addition, he’s played on some solid playoff teams in this league. He’s shown sharp wit and intellect through his podcasts and on ESPN, and his Mind the Game podcast was groundbreaking, as he sat down with arguably the greatest of all-time in LeBron James to break down plays, analyze film and the game, and Redick’s ability to break down plays and the actions within the plays was truly mesmerizing to watch. To tell the viewers why each of the plays helped the team that ran them and why those actions were meaningful truly highlighted Redick’s ability to grasp, understand, and communicate to the audience, which I think will make him a very good coach in the NBA.

Now, there are some potential pitfalls. I thought Darvin Ham had a very good season last year, as the Lakers exceeded my expectations during the 2022-23 season by making the Western Conference Finals. However, that may only have made expectations grow very lofty, perhaps too much so, and losing to the Denver Nuggets again, this time in a first round series led to Ham’s dismissal. This year, the Lakers actually won more games in the regular season (47 compared to 43 in the regular season in 2023), and won something called The In-Season Tournament, but they won just one game in the 2024 playoffs with LeBron and Anthony Davis on the team compared to winning eight games in the 2023 playoffs last year. It also may not have helped that Ham had also made comments in the offseason about Malone and Kerr prior to the start of this season, but heightened expectations in Los Angeles will likely make Redick’s job harder than it has to be. I do think Ham was dismissed too soon, especially given that the Lakers made it to the Conference Finals in his first year with them, but that said, I think the Lakers made a very good coaching hire in hiring Redick.

I think this was a very good hire. Redick was very deserving of this job, and while naysayers will say he doesn’t have any head coaching experience, neither did Steve Kerr or Erik Spoelstra when they first were hired as NBA head coaches, and they’ve done well for themselves. Steve Kerr and Doc Rivers were TV analysts right when they were hired, and they both have won NBA championships. Mark Jackson was also hired from TV, and while he’s not coaching or on TV right now, he led the Warriors to a winning record and to some postseasons when he was there.

I think Redick has the intelligence, communicative abilities, and the Xs and Os to succeed in Los Angeles. His job will be tough since he’s going to a big-market team that wants to win now, but then again, the NBA can be an impatient league, as Monty Williams was a former Coach of the Year award winner that was fired by Detroit after going 14-68 this year, and is owed roughly $65 million left over the next five years. So, even bad teams aren’t always willing to stick it out with coaches after Years 1 or 2, which is bad for coaches, especially if they need more years to prove themselves and adjust to their situation.

Whether if Monty Williams should’ve been fired or not would be up for debate. On one hand, his wife has been dealing with breast cancer, so that has made his year very tumultuous, and it is possible that he may not have been in the right mindset to coach this year. But on the other, starting Killian Hayes over Jaden Ivey, and playing Hayes many minutes before management had to step in and cut him was certainly a choice, but not a good one. Also questionable decisions he made were not playing Joe Harris or Monte Morris many minutes, even though both of them had been proven role players previously and that Monty Williams was known for being a coach that has coached playoff teams. And certainly, a strong case can be made for Williams’ dismissal, and @PistonsThoughts on X laid those arguments out pretty clearly.

PistonsThoughts lays out very clearly why they feel Monty Williams was justly fired, but the Pistons will have to pay him an exorbitant amount of money even though he will no longer work for them.
(Source:
X/@PistonsThoughts)

From a pure basketball standpoint, Williams probably should’ve been fired if we’re basing it solely on how he coached this team this season, and it seemed clear that he didn’t want to coach in Detroit, and he was probably not the right fit for the Pistons. Still, having to pay roughly $65 million or more for a coach to not coach them and do nothing is absurdly wasteful, and I think it’s a blemish on the Pistons’ record. While I think Trajan Langdon has a right to hire his own coach, firing a coach with so much left on his contract is not a good look for Detroit.

All in all, I think the Redick hire was a very good one. Dan Hurley would’ve been a great hire that nearly every NBA fan would’ve been on board with, but understandably, Hurley’s decided to stick it out at UConn, where he’s already a legend, has a comfortable situation, and probably will be there for as long as he wants to. For Redick, there’s always the burden of expectations and things that may be outside of his control, like player injuries or if the team suddenly grows impatient with him, but with his strong knowledge, communication skills, and ability to teach the game, I think this move will pay off for the Lakers, especially if they are patient with him and allow him to coach for at least the entire duration of his contract.

Lakers’ Coaching Hiring Grade: A-

In the podcast above, LeBron James and JJ Redick detail their explanations it what makes the Celtics’ offense extremely hard to guard and almost impossible to stop.
(Source: Mind the Game Podcast w/LeBron James and JJ Redick)

All in all, those are my thoughts on the Lakers’ coaching hire. Thanks for reading.

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