JJ Redick addresses Doc Rivers rant Photo credit: The Old Man and the Three

ESPN analyst JJ Redick might be an excellent basketball coach with the Los Angeles Lakers or elsewhere someday. He’s a sharp 39-year-old who retired less than three seasons ago. That means he’s young enough to relate to players and bring new energy to any franchise needing a spark.

If you’re eager to be a coach, there is the traditional route to employment. Become an assistant, learn the details, and climb the ladder until you get your shot. That’s the path taken by most, several of whom may never have the opportunity for an interview. Redick will be taking the easier route. Yet again, someone with no coaching experience cuts the line, and he may land the most prestigious job in the NBA.  

Redick is a candidate to become the Lakers coach. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha has gone as far as to call him a slight favorite. It probably helps that Redick’s former Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, is reportedly an unofficial consultant for the Lakers’ search. It would be surprising if Redick takes over one of the league’s flagship franchises. No one could have predicted that an ESPN analyst with zero qualifications would become a professional coach.

Wait a minute. That sounds vaguely familiar.

In November 2022, after firing Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay hand-picked Jeff Saturday straight off the set of NFL Live. Irsay’s decision was roundly ridiculed and condemned. Saturday went 1-7, including blowing the biggest lead in league history. To be fair, Saturday was brought in on an interim basis. Still, it speaks to the power of television and how other forms of media can lead to chances that others might never have.

Redick would not be a serious candidate if he didn’t have a broadcasting and podcasting career. Credit him for having that ambition early. In 2016, as a member of the L.A. Clippers, he became the first active NBA player to have his own podcast, hosting The Vertical Podcast with J.J. Redick. It was part of then-Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Vertical Podcast with Woj. That led to other podcasting opportunities, including his highly successful show The Old Man and the Three.

Redick continues to be a rising star as a broadcaster. But that doesn’t mean he’s uniquely qualified to be a coach. The fact that he gets to skip the line for a prime opportunity should make any assistant who has had to grind his way to get a spot on the bench furious. Owners and general managers love to hire big names. And when you have a media career that reaches millions, that automatically makes you a star. However, it doesn’t automatically make you the right person for the job.

On TV, it’s easier to look smart when you have no actual stakes in the outcome.

Redick isn’t the only one benefiting from his sports media celebrity recently. To a considerably lesser degree, so has Doug Gottlieb, who was hired at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay this week with no college coaching experience. Gottlieb has made no secret of his desire to be a head coach but had had no desire to be a college assistant.

Coaching at a mid-major isn’t easy. Green Bay has only made the NCAA tournament once since 1996. But there were probably several people who wanted that job. Division I gigs are hard to get. But not only will Gottlieb run a Horizon League program. He will keep hosting his Fox Sports radio show.

Hiring Redick and Gottlieb may work. Redick and LeBron James have a podcast together, so they already have a business relationship. If you’re going to coach the Lakers, you need to get along with James. For Green Bay, this is the most publicity the program has had since it made the tournament in 2016.

But you can’t ignore that Redick and Gottlieb cut to the front of the line thanks to broadcasting.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.