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JJ Redick the ESPN Broadcaster Showed Us What He’ll Be Like as Lakers Head Coach

The hiring of JJ Redick as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers has spurred some mixed commentary in the national media. ESPN’s Austin Rivers did a nice turn on First Take recently talking about the story. Rivers has been an absolute sensation throughout the NBA season and the playoffs.

It’s difficult when you are a second-generation star both as a player and a media personality. Austin’s dad Doc Rivers, currently the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, has a sterling resume as an NBA player, coach, and broadcaster, but the younger Rivers has had no issues breaking out of dad’s shadow and forging a name for himself.

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His points are so strong and his words so biting that he has carved his own niche in basketball media in a very short time. Rivers tells it like it is, has a no holds barred approach, and doesn’t take any flak from anyone.

It is easy to see why Rivers thinks Redick will thrive as the Lakers’ coach. They have similar personalities and NBA resumes. Both came out of Duke with high expectations, but neither became a superstar in the NBA. They made their money and staked their reputations on intelligence, hard work, and intensity.

In his dissertation, Rivers stomped on every possible pitfall that Redick could face as a first time NBA head coach. He cited that Redick played 15 seasons in the NBA and was one of the most decorated college basketball players of all time. As teammates with the LA Clippers from 2015-2017, Rivers has first-hand knowledge of Redick’s coaching potential. In fact, he raved about Redick’s consistent veteran presence and leadership.

Stephen A. Smith backed up Rivers’ thoughts with an anecdote from when Redick was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. It was the COVID bubble year, and the Pelicans were getting soundly thrashed. Smith explained that Redick was on the bench seething and glaring at players who were not giving their best efforts.

There is precedent for media personalities jumping into coaching and achieving success. Pat Riley went from calling Laker games alongside Chick Hearn to joining Paul Westhead’s staff and eventually winning four championships as LA’s head coach.

Similarly, Ex-MLB catcher Bob Brenly left the broadcast booth and managed the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series Championship. In the discussion on Redick and the Lakers, First Take host Molly Qerim made the fine point that in today’s NBA, playing experience might be even more important than coaching experience.

Still, a cold move directly from broadcasting to coaching with no prior experience is quite a leap. It’s a whole different game when you are play acting on television. If you’re not good at broadcasting, you lose your job. If you’re not good at being a head coach, your players, assistant coaches, and the people who hired you lose their jobs as well.

Redick’s situation will be magnified given that he is coaching the highest profile team in the NBA, maybe in all of sports save for the Dallas Cowboys. While the Boston Celtics now have more championships than the Lakers, it is the ‘Purple and Gold’ crew that stays in the A-block of most national sports talk shows even when they underachieve on the court.

Los Angeles is not New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, old school cities whose fans and media can be snipingly vicious. However, when it comes to the Lakers, there is a definite ‘win or you’re gone’ philosophy. Just ask Frank Vogel who brought a championship to Tinseltown in 2020 only to be shown the door two years later.

Smith made the point that most of the Laker head coaches who have followed the glory days of Phil Jackson have not fared very well. Very true, so what can the inexperienced JJ Redick do that veteran coaches like Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Byron Scott, and Bernie Bickerstaff could not do?

First off, as an NBA commentator, Redick is as outstanding as he is outspoken. I liken his acumen and depth to that of ESPN football analyst Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky, however, does not have the edge, fire, or short fuse that Redick possesses.

Orlovsky is like a friendly neighbor – that guy with the goofy hat and sneakers mowing his lawn. Redick is the jerk next door who will come at Orlovsky’s jugular with a hedge trimmer if he steps one inch onto his property.

Stephen A. Smith openly stated that Redick will tell you what he thinks whether you like it or not. This is a valuable asset in dealing with NBA players. Pro hoop stars don’t need BS. They want the truth, good or bad.

Beyond this candor, there is a certain insight gained when a player has been both a superstar and a role player. At Duke, Redick was unquestionably the man following in a long line of Blue Devil legends, who were revered by the Cameron Crazies and despised by pretty much everyone else. In the NBA, he was part of a team, an important piece of the puzzle, but never the main dude.

On television, Redick regularly goes toe to toe with his fellow debaters, most of whom have much more media experience. Can Redick do the same against more seasoned NBA coaches and players? I think he can and here’s why.

If you are going to coach the Lakers, you have to have a bigger personality than the owner, the general manager, the players, the Laker Girls, and the Hollywood fans. Darvin Ham did not have that. Frank Vogel did not have that. Pat Riley with his slicked back hair and tailored suits did. Phil Jackson with his six Chicago rings and Zen Master reputation did. Guess what? JJ Redick does too and much of that comes from his work on television.

Rivers admits that he is traveling the same road as Redick. On a recent edition of The Pat McAfee Show, Rivers openly stated that he is using his media work to raise his profile so that he can eventually be considered for an NBA coaching gig.

Maybe it’s not about being behind the mic, but about sitting behind the Mike, namely, Duke coaching icon Mike Krzyzewski. Bobby Hurley, Quin Snyder, Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker, now Redick, and perhaps soon Rivers – just a bunch of Coach K’s kids looking to pace the sidelines just like their mentor.

Getting seen on television in a positive light as a knowledgeable analyst can pave the way to this goal. Redick has become a basketball media celebrity. Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him. The Los Angeles Lakers have always been about star power, soundbites, personality, and charisma. JJ Redick is the ideal hire for them.

Redick looks the part, talks the part, and will play his part perfectly in this Hollywood premiere. In fact, Redick the coach is going to be just like Redick the broadcaster. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong, sometimes he’s just plain maddening, but he is always fun to watch.

John Molori
John Molori
John Molori is a weekly columnist for Barrett Sports Media. He has previously contributed to ESPNW, Patriots Football Weekly, Golf Content Network, Methuen Life Magazine, and wrote a syndicated Media Blitz column in the New England region, which was published by numerous outlets including The Boston Metro, Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, and the Eagle-Tribune. His career also includes fourteen years in television as a News and Sports Reporter, Host, Producer working for Continental Cablevision, MediaOne, and AT&T. He can be reached on Twitter @MoloriMedia.


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