National Basketball Association
Can JJ Redick transform the Lakers? The pressure is on
National Basketball Association

Can JJ Redick transform the Lakers? The pressure is on

Published Jun. 24, 2024 9:22 p.m. ET

JJ Redick's introductory press conference as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers makes it easier to understand why he was hired. 

He can be funny. 

The highest level Redick has coached was fourth-grade youth basketball, yet he was just hired to take over the helm of one of the most prestigious franchises in sports, the 17-time-champion Lakers. He opened his presser calling out the elephant in the room as reporters chuckled. 

"I have never coached in the NBA before. I don't know if you guys have heard that."


He can be earnest. 

Things could've turned awkward quickly. As Redick sat next to Rob Pelinka, the Lakers general manager was asked about initially offering the gig to UConn's Dan Hurley. Pelinka said he'd be willing to address the question later, pointing out that it was Redick's day. Unprompted, Redick chose to interject, wanting to address being the team's second choice. 

"I was getting ready to call Game 1 of the NBA Finals when the Dan Hurley news broke. And Rob was quick to call me. We had a great conversation. During that whole four-day period, at no point was my ego or feelings hurt or bruised in any way. Dan Hurley is a two-time national champion at UConn. I am a two-time 55 Swish League champion in the third- and fourth-grade division.  Like, I understood, you know?"

And he can be irreverent.

It's no secret that coaching the Lakers is one of the toughest jobs in sports. Since Phil Jackson was fired in 2011, the gig has been a revolving door with seven different head coaches — eight including Bernie Bickerstaff's five-game interim tenure in 2013. So, even though Redick hasn't yet coached a game, he's already being picked apart. The narrative goes something like this: Pelinka picked a novice? What a joke. How long is this guy going to last? But Redick didn't flinch when asked which storyline about himself he's most looking forward to dispelling. 

"I don't really have a great answer for your question because I really don't give a f---."

Redick came across as smart and likable. He added some clarity to why the Lakers picked a guy with no professional coaching experience to help them win their first championship since 2020. 

This much we know: Redick has a brilliant basketball mind. He's a 15-year NBA veteran. LeBron James chose to do a podcast with him. He has excelled as a broadcaster. 

Redick knows the game cold. But will that translate to him leading a locker room? Can he go from being a utility player to commanding the respect of the team's superstars?

"I think NBA head coaching experience and NBA experience aren't mutually exclusive things," Pelinka said. "I think JJ has an amazing amount of NBA experience that's going to make him a great NBA coach."

Of course, it helps that Redick and James have a pre-existing relationship, as evidenced by them sipping wine and fascinatingly dissecting the game on the "Mind The Game" podcast. (And no, Redick will no longer partake in that.) But if James chooses to return to the Lakers, either by opting into his $51.4 million salary or signing a new contract with the team, Redick clearly has James in his corner. 

Will the JJ Redick hire hurt the Lakers' locker room?

Redick, however, made it clear that they weren't consulting one another during the coaching search. 

"He didn't provide any advice," Redick said. "LeBron and I did not talk about the Lakers job until Thursday afternoon, about 30 minutes after I was offered the job. And that was very intentional on both our parts.

"I knew I had an understanding that he did not want to be involved in this. And for me, I didn't want to go down the path of hypotheticals with someone that I consider a friend and someone that I have a great amount of respect for. So, for us, it just came down to literally Thursday afternoon. And I talked to him for about 15-20 minutes and got off the phone. That was it."

So, now Redick finds himself in charge of a team with many question marks.

Will James return? Can Pelinka improve the roster during the offseason? Can the Lakers really be contenders next season?

But among those queries, Redick is perhaps the biggest unknown.

He's personable. He called himself a perfectionist but added he knows he'll have to give himself grace in this new role. But in this town, that's not going to be reciprocated.

The Lakers' magnifying glass is especially intense. Some of the best players of all time have played for this team, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, to name a few. Hollywood celebrities regularly sit courtside. And before the Boston Celtics won their 18th title earlier this month, the Lakers and Celtics were tied as the winningest franchises in NBA history. 

Why Lakers' impatience is more worrisome than JJ Redick's experience

Now, a guy who has never even coached so much as a middle-school squad will dive head-first into that pressure cooker. 

Even though he just secured the job last week, Redick has already started trying to transform a team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets in April. 

He has joked with LeBron James about shooting more 3s after he shot a career-high 41 percent from that distance last season. He spoke with Anthony Davis about being what he called a "hub," adding that he doesn't know if "he's been used in that way and sort of maximized all of his abilities." He mentioned having great chats with Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura

But in a few short months, he's going to be put to the test. 

It's clear that when the Lakers fail, all fingers point at the coach, especially when LeBron James and Anthony Davis are in the locker room. 

So, here's to hoping he can quickly learn the most unforgiving of jobs under the brightest of lights. Or else. 

No pressure, JJ. 

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.


Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more