The Los Angeles Lakers overhauled their roster this offseason, with the exceptions of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker. However, as wild as their summer was, the moves surrounding the Lakers’ coaching and training staffs were equivalently mysterious.
On the heels of the Lakers’ formalizing the additions of assistant coaches David Fizdale and John Lucas III and announcing the hiring of new Head Athletic Trainer Roger Sancho and promotion of Ed Streit to Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, let’s recap the low-key strange offseason of sideline shake-ups in Los Angeles.
In June, the Lakers moved on from Nina Hsieh, who had been the team’s Head Athletic Trainer for two seasons, including on the 2019-20 championship squad. The change wasn’t all that surprising, considering the Lakers’ injury issues throughout last season, including the apparent mismanagement of Davis. Her successor was not known until Wednesday’s announcement.
On the coaching front, the staff under Frank Vogel will look noticeably different in 2021-22.
Jason Kidd was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd carries troublesome baggage, but he had been a valued member of the Lakers’ staff for the past two years. At exit interviews, Vogel spoke glowingly of Kidd’s development as a coach and scout and called him one of his closest friends and confidants.
Then, the Lakers elected not to renew the contract of long-time NBA fixture Lionel Hollins, who had been one of Vogel’s lead assistants. Hollins interviewed for the same position under Chauncey Billups with the Portland Trail Blazers (Scott Brooks landing the gig).
“In the wake of Jason Kidd’s departure to Dallas to serve as the Mavericks’ head coach, Hollins … had interest in signing a new deal,” reported The Athletic. “But there was frustration with the perceived lack of honest communication from the Lakers with the coaching staff in the process, leading Hollins, who joined Vogel’s staff in 2019, to decide to pursue opportunities elsewhere, sources said.”
Mike Penberthy was promoted to lead assistant, Phil Handy remains one of the game’s most respected and busiest developmental coaches, while Quinton Crawford coached the Summer League Lakers to a solid performance in Vegas. Miles Simon is back. Their familiarity in the locker room will be welcome.
Speaking of Simon, the G League South Bay Lakers have undergone curious personnel changes, too. In July, Silver Screen and Roll reported that Coby Karl did not have his contract re-upped after five seasons as South Bay head coach. The move came as a mild surprise, considering Karl went 83-67 (including a first-place finish in the West in 2016-17) and oversaw a number of call-ups during his tenure. In general, the Lakers’ recent developmental track record has been impressive.
Instead, Simon will serve double-duty as Lakers assistant and South Bay head coach. I’m not doubting his ability to excel at both jobs, and perhaps the Lakers like the idea of Simon bringing his closeness to the pro squad directly to the G League. From afar, though, it seems like an oddly demanding commitment for the organization to ask of Simon. Maybe he can get his hands on one of Hermione Granger’s Time-Turners.
Frank Vogel’s situation wasn’t entirely drama-free, either. After the season, Vogel — entering the third of a three-year contract — indicated his preference to remain with the Lakers for many years to come.
“I love this organization and hope to be a Laker for life,” he said. Rob Pelinka stated a desire to keep Vogel around, too.
Yet, despite winning a title in his first season in Los Angeles and churning out another elite defense in 2020-21, Vogel had yet to receive an extension until August, and the undisclosed nature of the deal caused folks in NBA circles to speculate that only one year was tacked on, per Marc Stein.
It’s possible that the Lakers are resisting committing to just about anybody besides Davis and THT following 2022-23 —when LeBron James’ contract expires. Still, Vogel, 48, has been a solid company man and a stellar coach and seemed utterly deserving of long-term stability.
Either way, the Lakers’ staff, like the roster, finally seems to be set, two weeks before the start of training camp.