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Column: Dan Hurley rejection is another humiliation for Lakers brand that has lost its luster

Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley reacts to a play during a Final Four game against Alabama.
Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley spurned the Lakers’ offer to become their next coach.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)
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Dan Hurley is considered one of the best basketball minds on the planet.

He doesn’t want to work for the Lakers.

Dan Hurley was offered more than double his current salary as the current Connecticut coach — $70 million — to leave Storrs for Hollywood.

He told the Lakers to keep their money.

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Dan Hurley, a former high school coach, was given a chance to lead basketball’s highest-profile team in its most glamorous city for a Lakers head coaching job that would offer him generational wealth and change his career arc forever.

He blew them off.

UConn basketball coach Dan Hurley turns down the Lakers’ offer to become their new head coach, forcing the team to reconsider its options.

June 10, 2024

Certainly, this speaks admirable volumes about the priorities of an East Coast guy who would eschew a walk on the red carpet for a chance to stay among family and try to win a third consecutive NCAA title.

But this says more about the Lakers.

This says the Lakers must have one of the worst head coaching jobs in the history of organized basketball.

This says the Lakers’ front office must be viewed as an unadulterated mess.

This says LeBron James must be considered such a coach killer that even the most secure coach in the game wants no part of him.

This is embarrassing.

This is as embarrassing as when Tyronn Lue turned them down five years ago over issues of money and control.

This is almost as embarrassing as when Mike Krzyzewski turned them down 20 years ago to spend the rest of his career in Durham, N.C.

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This is humiliating for Lakers fans to watch a college coach who has never worked a moment in the NBA refuse a chance to work for the most celebrated of NBA franchises.

This is demeaning for a Lakers team that possesses arguably the greatest player in basketball history, and one of the top 10 players in the current league, and yet were still snubbed as if they were the junior varsity.

This is disillusioning for a Lakers franchise that Hurley personally examined during his recent interview here, saw the best they had to offer, and said … nah.

And this is bad for Rob Pelinka. This is really bad for Rob Pelinka.

Barely one year after he seemingly gained job security as executive vice president and general manager by building a supporting cast that helped the Lakers battle into the Western Conference finals, Pelinka has just whiffed on the most important part of his job … for the third time in five years.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, left, talks with coach Darvin Ham before a game in March.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
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He is the one who blew it with Lue in 2019, instead settling for Frank Vogel, who won a championship in 2020 but ultimately didn’t command the type of respect that would have given him staying power. Lue did. Lue would still be their coach.

Pelinka is also the one who blew it with Darvin Ham, hastily giving a first head coaching job to a nice guy who just wasn’t ready. When the players sensed Ham’s strategic weaknesses, they pounced, and he never recovered.

So here we go again, a Pelinka coaching search for the third time in five years, and what happens? He gets it wrong again.

He seemingly settled on a horrible choice in JJ Redick — never coached anybody at any level above youth league — and then smartly realized his mistake and took a hearty swing for arguably one of the best coaches anywhere, a two-time defending NCAA champion boss with toughs and smarts and tons of charisma.

Hurley is a unicorn, but so are the Lakers, and it was a match made in purple-and-gold heaven.

Most thought the Lakers would land him. How could the Lakers not land him?

Wasn’t this the same Lakers organization that talked the great Phil Jackson into coming out of retirement twice? Wasn’t this the same Lakers organization that always acquired the prize player, whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, from Wilt to Kareem to Shaq to LeBron to A.D.?

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Not anymore.

With the hated rivals tied for overall NBA titles, fans know a lot is at stake for Lakers and Celtics fans during this year’s playoffs.

June 10, 2024

This should have been a slam dunk, but it was instead an airball, and the abject failure to land Hurley shows the depths to which the organization’s reputation has fallen.

There was a time when an emerging coach like Hurley would have walked barefoot from Storrs to the Southland to work for the Lakers. These days he barely spends a day here before hustling back home to where he feels he has a chance to win.

Hurley was offered a six-year contract, meaning James couldn’t have fired him, and he still said no.

Hurley was given enough money to become one of the NBA’s six highest paid coaches before having coached his first NBA game, and he still said no.

He was given the keys to the entire Lakers kingdom, he could have rebuilt one of America’s most famed basketball cultures in his likeness, it was a gift never previously bestowed to any Lakers coach, not even Jackson.

And still, he said no.

Pelinka needed to close this deal. Pelinka should never have gone after Hurley if he couldn’t close this deal.

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Given Hurley’s reputation as a winner, this snub makes it look as if he thinks the Lakers are losers.

Like, they can’t win with Pelinka in charge. Like, they can’t succeed with LeBron in control. Like, they’re going nowhere, and Dan Hurley was not down for that ride.

Who knows, maybe this looming nightmare of a Bronny James draft pick also played on his mind. Maybe he was told the Lakers were taking the unqualified kid with the 55th pick and maybe he just didn’t want the hassle.

Many view Bronny James as a strong NBA draft prospect, but it would be a disaster and big distraction if the Lakers drafted him.

May 30, 2024

It is understood that money was not a factor, that Pelinka could have upped the fair offer to an outlandish $100 million and it still wouldn’t matter.

That’s worse. One would have wished it was only about money. Instead, it is apparently about the entire Lakers organization, and owner Jeanie Buss better finally take note.

Your house is falling. Your reputation is diminishing. Your future is dimming.

Your team still has curb appeal with LeBron and A.D. and the incredible business workings of executive Tim Harris, but the foundation is crumbling.

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The smart people in the basketball world apparently don’t trust you. The accomplished people in the basketball world apparently don’t believe in you. Rebuilding and reshaping in the wake of LeBron’s retirement is going to be difficult with your front office as constituted.

So where do they go from here? Who has any idea? Who has any trust in anything they do? Their coach will be at least a second choice, that’s for sure, and it will result in the most awkward introductory news conference since Vogel arrived.

This is a bad job, and it just got much worse.

Don’t look now, but the Lakers are no longer the Lakers.

Actually, look now, because Dan Hurley just said it.

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