Sources told ESPN that University of Michigan coach Joanne Howard recently turned down the Los Angeles Lakers’ offer of a coaching job at the franchise, choosing to remain at his alma mater, where Howard and his two sons will coach next season.
The Lakers have a formal research process in place, but courting college coaches usually requires a different level of discretion. Sources said the Lakers have a final roster that includes Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Hamm, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stott. The Lakers are expected to have in-person interviews in the near future.
Sources said the Lakers have never made a formal offer to Howard, but it’s clear that if he had expressed an interest in the job, his nomination would have moved quickly to that point. While Howard has a history of playing with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and superstar LeBron James, he has consistently maintained his plans to stay in Ann Arbor, where his sons Jess and Jett will be juniors and a freshman, respectively, next season.
Howard interviewed for Los Angeles as an assistant coach for the Miami Heat in 2019, before accepting the coaching position at Michigan. Howard’s success in the college ranks—along with his resume as a Heat assistant for six years and a two-time NBA champion as a player—has inspired a strong interest in him among the NBA teams.
Sources said Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens was interested in Howard in opening his internship a year ago, but Howard turned down that offer as well. The Celtics hired Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka.
Like Howard, Hamm is another former player with strong leadership, presence, winning experience and tactical understanding from previous work with top-level coaches. Sources said Hamm is also a strong candidate for the Charlotte Hornets coaching opening. Hamm worked with GM Hornets Mitch Kupchak as an assistant coach for the Lakers a decade ago.
Both Stots and Atkinson brought with them previous NBA coaching experience.
Stots most recently coached the Blazers from 2012 to 2021 and reached the playoffs in his last eight seasons in a row – including two trips to the Western Conference semi-finals and a berth in the Conference Finals in 2019. He is known for his offensive creativity and ability to build relationships with his superstars.
Atkinson built a reputation for player development as an assistant and head coach in the NBA. He spent over three years as the Nets head coach, which led him to a play-off appearance in his third season in 2018-19.
Howard is 93-61 in three seasons at Michigan and was named National Coach of the Year in 2021. His time with the Wolverines included top-five poll ratings in all three years, a Big Ten regular season title and two trips to the NCAA Championship.
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