Alexander: Hurley’s rejection of Lakers offer shouldn’t have been surprising

Alexander: Hurley’s rejection of Lakers offer shouldn’t have been surprising

So what happens now?

Dan Hurley said no to the Lakers Monday, and should we really have been that surprised? An East Coast guy, and the king of his campus after back-to-back national championships at Connecticut, Hurley decided not to step out of his comfort zone.even with a six-year, $70 million contract offer on the table. Which was, to be sure, more than twice the annual average value of the six-year $32.1 million contract extension he signed at UConn a year ago.

And there’s talk that the UConn contract will soon be sweetened again, with one report that a six-year, $50 million deal is on the table. So maybe the Lakers did for Hurley what they did for the Clippers’ Ty Lue and Dallas’ Jason Kidd, both of whom received extensions from their current teams.

(As long as the Lakers are in the business of getting guys more money from their current organizations … well, where does the line form?)

Again, this should not be terribly surprising to those who are not true believers in Laker Execeptionalism.

Hurley declined to join an organization that, one bubble championship aside, has fallen in national stature over the last 13 years. The Lakers will be hiring their seventh coach since Phil Jackson left town, and in recent years they’ve had to fight their way out of the play-in round just to get into the postseason.

That ain’t exceptional.

Hurley also decided against transitioning to a brand of basketball that, aside from 10-foot baskets and a 94-foot long court, bears little resemblance to the college game at which he has made his reputation. A shorter shot clock, a longer season with less practice time, players more set in their ways and more willing to challenge, and a big city franchise with the attendant media scrutiny are just some of the reasons why so many coaches making the switch from college basketball to the NBA have been, at best, mediocre.

When you look at it that way, going for a three-peat on the college level is really enticing.

And when it comes right down to it, asking someone whose life and family and career have been centered in the Northeast to uproot at age 51, and not only go to the NBA but to do it in L.A., might have been just too big an ask.

Or, as ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said during a SportsCenter segment Monday morning, this was “less about the Lakers and more about the Hurleys.” Greenberg compared the Hurleys to the family portrayed in the CBS drama Blue Bloods, where the patriarch – Tom Selleck – gathers the extended family at the dinner table every episode.

(In this case the patriarch would be Bob Hurley Sr., the legendary Jersey City high school coach, so does this make Dan Hurley the emotionally explosive son/cop played by Donnie Wahlberg? That character, by the way, is also known as Danny.)

Then again, if the Lakers had offered Hurley closer to $100 million for six years, rather than $70 million, would that have been convincing enough? I’m still not sure.

Give Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka credit for at least aiming high, not to mention keeping it under wraps as long as they did if the report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was true, that Hurley was their top choice all along.

But also realize that by aiming high and falling short, they’ve reduced their options. That eye-opening hire that would put the rest of the league on notice isn’t out there any more. Meanwhile, that national reputation of “dysfunctional Lakers” remains.

And so we are back to discussing candidates JJ Redick and James Borrego, and maybe even former Villanova coach Jay Wright. His name surfaced as a “stealth candidate” over the last few days, likely in response to the question, “What happens if Hurley says no?”

Wright, 62 and currently a studio analyst with CBS, won two national championships at Villanova and took his team to 16 NCAA tournaments in 21 seasons. He’s smoother and has experience in a big media market, Philadelphia, but there would be less potential upside with Wright than would have been with Hurley.

And there remains that college-to-pro factor. Larry Brown remains the only guy to truly transcend it by winning NCAA and NBA titles. In case you’re wondering, he’s 83 and already in the Hall of Fame, and I severely doubt he’d be interested in getting back on the carousel. (Although there have been crazier ideas, I suppose. …)

Hurley, if nothing else, would have captured the imagination of the fan base, and the anticipation Monday morning while waiting for his decision provided just a glimpse of that.

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So does this mean Redick is again the leading candidate? A novice coach is still a huge risk, no matter how extensive his knowledge of the game. Borrego, who has interviewed twice, has head coaching experience and seemed to work well with Anthony Davis when the two were in New Orleans, is a candidate for the Cleveland opening as well.

What’s the alternative at this point? To hire Monty Williams? To bring back Frank Vogel after he was fired in Phoenix? To wait until the NBA Finals are over and pursue Sam Cassell, who is currently on the Celtics’ staff?

After Monday’s news there’s not much for Laker fans to get excited about, unless Dallas wins four of the next five games in the NBA Finals.

And whoever is eventually hired could be a tough sell to a fan base that wants so desperately to believe that good times are again right around the corner.

jalexander@scng.com

 

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