Adrian Wojnarowski, Dan Hurley, JJ Redick, and Shams Charania. Adrian Wojnarowski, Dan Hurley, JJ Redick, and Shams Charania.

The week-long saga of UConn coach Dan Hurley suddenly emerging as the Los Angeles Lakers’ top coaching target, receiving a massive offer from them, and then turning it down to stay with the Huskies has a lot of media dimensions. One is on the reporting front. And a strange aspect of that involves insiders Shams Charania and Adrian Wojnarowski.

ESPN’s Wojnarowski was both the first to report Hurley as “the coach they’ve been after” last Thursday and the first to report Hurley turning the Lakers down Monday. Some questioned his reporting, with Skip Bayless saying last week it “didn’t pass the smell test” thanks to weeks of previous reporting from Charania (currently of The Athletic, Stadium, and FanDuel TV, and formerly a colleague of Wojnarowski’s at Yahoo) and others that ESPN analyst JJ Redick was the “front-runner” and that the Lakers were “infatuated” with him (with that last coming a day before Wojnarowski’s report). And Bayless went even further Tuesday on Undisputed, questioning Woj’s connections to the Hurley family and saying that he believes Hurley approached the Lakers rather than vice-versa:

Bayless wasn’t the only one to bring up Wojnarowski’s seemingly-close relationship with the Hurley family, which saw him write a book on Bob Hurley Sr., Hurley’s father. And others still, including Bill Simmons, added to the discussion here with arguments that Hurley wasn’t actually considering the Lakers, instead only using them to get more money from UConn (which it sounds like he will, albeit much less than what the Lakers were offering). And given how this resolved, some have even tried to bill the ultimate result here as a victory for Charania (who confirmed Wojnarowski’s initial report of the team targeting Hurley last week, but did not write or tweet on the subject Sunday or Monday) over Wojnarowski. And Charania weighed in on it himself Tuesday on Run It Back:

From the outside, though, the eventual outcome here doesn’t produce anything notable in Wojnarowski v. Charania. At least, not with what’s been reported to date. And it’s worth a careful examination of exactly what that is. Wojnarowski never reported that Hurley was absolutely going to take the Lakers’ job; he reported that Hurley was the team’s target. And as recently as Sunday night, in an on-the-record interview, Hurley told Wojnarowski he was still considering his options:

In a phone interview Sunday, Hurley told ESPN that he left “extremely impressed” with Lakers VP and GM Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss and had been spending Sunday weighing what sources tell ESPN is a massive, long-term offer to move to the NBA.

Hurley traveled to Los Angeles on Thursday night, met with the Lakers on Friday and returned east on Saturday morning, Hurley said.

Thus, at this point, it doesn’t appear that Wojnarowski reported anything factually inaccurate. The Lakers’ meetings with Hurley and their offer to him have been confirmed by other reporters, so the interest on their side was certainly there, and seems to have been at the level Wojnarowski reported. The potential misstep and/or conspiracy could be if Hurley truly had no interest in leaving for the NBA, and if he either deceived Wojnarowski or worked with him in order to get a Lakers’ offer and get more money from UConn in response. (Although, the Huskies reportedly were preparing to offer him a major pay bump after his second straight national title this spring, even before this happened; it’s not yet clear how much the Lakers’ interest escalated that.)

But claiming that Hurley never would have taken the Lakers’ job and only used them as a stalking horse is a bold accusation to make, especially with that contradicting Hurley’s on-the-record comments. And no one’s backed any of that up yet. And given that about the only way to prove that would either be to have Hurley say it to media and thus contradict his public claims on mulling the Lakers’ offer, or to have him tell someone else that who then tells media, it seems unlikely that will happen.

Motivation and timeline reporting is difficult, as no one is ever truly in another’s head. Some outlets in the past have claimed victory for outcomes that back their initial reporting, even when other on-the-record comments or reported comments have disputed their timelines. They can certainly do that, but it’s impossible to completely verify when someone makes a decision beyond what they tell people or when they actually implement it.

The Wojnarowski-Hurley case has some notable differences from the above ones on Doc Rivers and Tom Brady. To this point, there has been no reporting directly contradicting anything Wojnarowski reported, or his timeline. The Lakers’ offer to Hurley is clear and verified by others, and no one has proven that Hurley wasn’t seriously considering it (and if he really wasn’t, spending the time flying to Los Angeles and meeting with them is a bold move).

If Hurley really did use Wojnarowski just for more UConn money, that would be a problem for Wojnarowski and ESPN. But it seems unlikely that’s what happened: who would not actually even think about taking $70 million to coach LeBron James and the Lakers, especially if they’re someone who’s often professed interest in coaching in the NBA?), and all but impossible to prove even if it was the case. So it’s hard with what’s out there right now to bill this as a win for Charania over Wojnarowski. It’s possible that Charania is right that Hurley wasn’t the Lakers’ initial target (perhaps they didn’t think they could get him to leave college), but they certainly did wind up making him an offer, something they didn’t yet do for any other candidate.

And perhaps that larger idea of “wins” for insiders should be questioned. Yes, there are absolutely times where one prominent insider’s reporting contradicts another, and where one does appear right. (Indeed, Wojnarowski’s reveal of Hurley as the Lakers’ actual target looks like one of those.) But that’s not the vast majority of cases; the more usual “wins” are just getting something slightly before someone else, and while that still can matter for people who make their living as insiders, it’s not really “Insider A is good, Insider B is bad.” (If Insider A always beats Insider B, that’s a different story, but that certainly isn’t the case with Shams and Woj; they’ve both picked up a number of notable scoops ahead of each other over the years.)

It’s absolutely worth tracking who reports what and when. And it’s worth being careful in analyzing the wording used, too. For example, while Charania’s claim the Lakers were “infatuated” with Redick last Wednesday didn’t hold up well, he didn’t specifically note they’d made Redick an offer, and mentioned New Orleans Pelicans’ associate head coach James Borrego as also in the running at that point. Similarly, Wojnarowski never said that Hurley was certain to leave. All of those caveats are worth keeping an eye on.

But, in the majority of cases, “insider versus insider” doesn’t seem like as big of a deal as some try to make it seem. Yes, there are rivalries, and yes, there’s competition to be first. But most of those scoops, especially ones on transactions, matter more in the aggregate than as individual “wins” for one insider or another. And most of the time, the insiders end up reporting the same thing in the end. It can be worth watching the insiders, and analyzing their relationships and potential sources, and sometimes, that can lead to notable disputes over reporting. But that’s not really what happened here, and it’s hard to see the result of the Hurley saga producing a notable decision in Shams vs. Woj.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.