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  • Several NBA teams have already entered their offseason. Two of them, the Lakers and Suns, are in the market for a new coach. On The Crossover podcast Chris Mannix considers which job offers the best opportunity.
By Chris Mannix
May 01, 2019

While the basketball world is largely ensconced in the NBA playoffs, there are several teams that have already entered into their offseason. The Lakers and Suns both fit that description and both teams are looking for a new coach. With that in mind, The Crossover Podcast's Chris Mannix and YES Network and FS1 NBA analyst Sarah Kustok discuss each organization and consider which franchise would provide the best working environment. 

(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)


Chris Mannix: All right. Let's talk about some of the coaching openings that are out there. Two in particular out west, the Lakers and the Suns. Now it seems like both these teams have kind of either zeroed in on Monty Williams or put him at either No. 1 or No. 1A on their hiring list. Williams still is the assistant right now with the Philadelphia 76ers.

You never would think you'd believe this, that the Suns job might be better than the Lakers job. But the Lakers right now are kind of in a weird place. LeBron James is in his mid-30s; the rest of the roster is in their early 20s. You've got cap space but you're not at the top of anybody's list that I know of in terms of signing there in the offseason, whereas with Phoenix you do have the meddlesome owner in Robert Sarver. It has been a coaching graveyard over the last five years. But you do have Devin Booker signed to a long-term deal. You have DeAndre Ayton. He was not going to win Rookie of the Year but he put up rookie of the year type numbers. I mean he was never on TV because he plays for the Suns, but he put up some pretty good numbers. He was impressive with the Suns this year, and come mid-May you might have the No. 1 overall pick or at least a pick that likely winds up inside that top three. So I think it's a lot closer than people think. I mean, is it possible that the Suns could be as good or better a coaching job than the L.A. Lakers?

Sarah Kustok: I'm not sure I would say better, and I think a lot of it rests on what your priorities are when you're looking for a head coaching job if Monty Williams has the opportunity to really have his pick of the two. You look at the Los Angeles Lakers, and despite what's gone on in some of the ways in which it seems like they're not entirely on the same page and on the same track; they're the Los Angeles Lakers. And I do still believe that holds a cachet. Their intent is to compete for a championship, they still have one of the greatest players to ever play the game and they have cap space. And to your point, who's going to come there? Who can they get? I am not sure but there is opportunity there. You're uncertain though what the roster will look like and those expectations are gonna be sky high. And so there's a lot of pressure that comes along with that. What will the front office look like? Who are you going to be kind of beholden to when you're making decisions, when you're coaching. And who is it that you're actually answering to? And I think all of those are questions you need to look at.

But then on the flip side of things with the Phoenix Suns. Ownership aside, of which there's a lot of questions in that regard, you got some young talent. You went through it: Booker, Ayton, a lottery pick and the potential of who you may get, a team that has some cap space and has some room, a location like the Phoenix area. I've talked about that. I don't know if anyone cares that you get a tan in the winter, maybe golf a little bit, not that you'd have time. 

Mannix: Looking forward to retirement already? 

Kustok: Already... Out there with job security it's been a carousel of head coaches coming through, but if you can get a team into even playoff contention, if you can make the play. I mean the ceiling or the expectations early on aren’t quite as high as you would face when you're going to Los Angeles. So I'm not sure you know what you care most about. Do you want a position where you are potentially you know relied upon to try and compete for a title? And I don't think one is better than the other. I just think they're very different. And you're looking at a roster that you're expecting to have experienced guys, a few young players assuming Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram are still there. But with you're looking at LeBron James and potentially some other more veteran players or a very young group in Phoenix that you think that you can develop and kind of work through their rebuilding process. So it's a great question, but I think a lot of it comes down to what your priorities are and what you care about most in taking one of those positions.

Mannix: There's just not a lot of stability in either situation.

Kustok: And really in coaching in the NBA.

Mannix: Well, I mean I mean stability above the coach with front offices. You go into some meetings and if you meet with the Spurs you know. Let's say like Gregg Popovich retires after this year, which I don't think he is going to do, but let's say whenever he walks away you've still got R.C. Buford there. The Holt family is there; you've got some stability that you know you can trust.

Kustok: Do you think it feels that way though with Jeannie Buss?

Mannix: No, I don't. I think Jeanie is not exactly distinguishing herself in my eyes. I mean you hire magic and Rob Pelinka. I get it. Magic Johnson, you continuing a longstanding tradition of your family of hiring ex-Lakers, and Magic is this charismatic figure that you would think would have a pretty good basketball mind. And you balance that out by trying to find the next Neil Olshey or the next Bob Meyers the next X agent to jump into the executive ranks and succeed. So I got that.

But then when it fizzled you'd think she'd want to go in a different direction, go up for the best name available. They can write any of these gems a blank check and say come work with us. Sam Preston, come work with us. R.C. Buford, come work with us. Bob Meyers, come work with us. Bob's got UCLA ties and it doesn't seem, at least from my understanding, that they've made overtures to really anybody. That they're happy with the current dynamic of Rob Pelinka running the show. 

I know this for a fact; there are a lot of top-quality GMs out there that would be very interested in talking to Lakers about their job. Very interested in talking them. Yet the Lakers just seem to be content at going this route, and if you're Monty Williams you know what with the mess is in in Phoenix. Sarver's there, their new GM in James Jones, Jeff Bowers kind of added some stability in that mix. 

Kustok: And I'm not even sure it makes sense to them. Can they lay out their structure of power? Can they lay out who's making decisions on what? Does a Monty Williams have leverage as their top candidate or Ty Lue? Do they have the leverage to go in in kind of lay out their plan and their vision? I don't know if they do you know trust what it is that they're hearing back. But I think those are all aspects of it. Which job would you take?

Mannix: Probably take Phoenix, and that's kind of rolling the dice and assuming they get the No. 1 pick or even No. 2. If you're the Suns, No. 2 is not bad for you either because you probably take Ja Morant out there and you know you spent the entire year with like open tryouts for point guard. That wasn't a good point guard spit. I'd lean towards Phoenix. I really would.

 

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