Jared Dudley’s 14-year NBA career ended unceremoniously, when the Lakers informed him that he would not be back for the 2021-22 season after playing two years with the team. Dudley was “disappointed” he wouldn’t still be able to compete alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and new arrival Russell Westbrook.
But Dudley was able to quickly pivot into coaching, joining the staff of Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, who had been an assistant with the Lakers when Dudley played with the team. It meant that Dudley would get a jump-start on his coaching career earlier than he had expected.
“I really wanted to play one last season with the Lakers, to be honest, but I’m also loving coaching,” Dudley said. “I’ve always wanted to be a coach and for J-Kidd to give me this opportunity, I am so grateful.”
The Los Angeles Times caught up with Dudley recently for a question and answer session:
How are you enjoying coaching with the Dallas Mavericks, and being on the front of the bench, no less, so soon after your career ended?
It was definitely a mind game early on of like, you’ve did so much for such a long time — 30 years of playing basketball — to now having to go to the other side of the basketball court, the locker room, front of the bus instead of the back of the bus, right side of the plane to the left side. So, mentally my mind was just like, ‘Are you willing to go one way?’ But it had to.
The enjoyment I’m getting now is scouting these basketball games. To watch teams play five to seven games. To understanding the matchups, how we want to guard them, their tendencies and taking it away. And so, for me just learning that and being in these coaches’ meetings, getting analytics reports, it’s helped me become a better basketball coach. I always thought I had a high IQ, but having so much other influence to add on to your knowledge and that’s something that has been really cool.
You became one of the Lakers’ fans favorites in your short time there. How much did you enjoying playing for the Lakers and winning an NBA title with them in 2020?
The one thing I’ll say about Laker fans is that they are passionate. I think they understand value. Even though I wasn’t a guy who played, they understood my role and doing things that were kind of like the extension of the coach — the locker room, the film sessions. In today’s age, it’s hard to have someone in the locker room that is selfless that can critique everybody, from young to old, and that’s something that took me 12 years to develop to be in that position to help them win a championship. So, I think they respected that. Me playing with ‘Bron was really a dream come true. I mean, from the dinners, the conversations, the film sessions in the bubble.
How disappointed were you that the Lakers didn’t want you back? Did you just understand that was the business of basketball?
Nothing in the NBA surprises me. I would say disappointing. I would say it was surprising in that I don’t think they valued my leadership and what I brought to that team. So, for me, to be honest with you, it ended up working out the best for me because now I’m the third assistant. That would have never happened if I would have played another year for the Lakers, and I would have gone into coaching the following year. It’s very rare you can go from a player to coaching on the front of the bench. So, it’s going to expedite my coaching career even faster now.
Is it your goal to become a head coach in the NBA?
Yes, for sure. I’ve been here in this situation, and it’s only been a couple of months and I’ve already scouted like eight to nine games. Most coaches do between 13 and 15 teams that they scout. I have 29 games I scout this year. So, at the end of the year, it will be like me doing two seasons. So, for me, I already have the communication skills for it. Now it’s about experience and paying your dues. When you’re a guy who has had to work for everything that you got, I have no problem with that. So, to me it’s not about if. It’s about when. I’ve just got to pay my dues and I’m willing to do that.
How has having played with superstars James, Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker helped you coach Dallas superstar Luka Doncic?
Let’s be honest. I’ve been here for two months and our relationship is still developing. I’ll throw different tidbits of ‘Bron. Not a lot, but some. But most of my time is just calling him out, good or bad.
Do you miss being a player?
Yes. I won’t even lie to you. You might think these coaches are bad, but they work their asses off. They are there hours before you get there in the gym and they stay hours after. As a player, all you are worried about is, ‘Where are we meeting at for dinner? Hey, what’s going on? Let’s go bowling Let’s go grab a drink.’ I do miss it at times, not actually playing. You miss the camaraderie. That’s what you miss.
What does it mean to have won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 2020?
When I first became a Laker the first day, I went up to [Lakers owner] Jeanie Buss’ office and she shook my hand like she does with every player. I remember like it was yesterday. She said, ‘Once a Laker, always a Laker.’ So, that’s always stuck with me. Jeanie has branded that and that is so true. I can be a Dallas Maverick. I played most of my career in Phoenix.
Wherever I go, throughout the United States, international, there are Lakers fans everywhere and it’s always a level of respect. So, to win one with the Lakers to is probably to me the most gratifying thing so far in my career, because it’s the biggest brand in sports. I don’t care if you did one percent, to if you were the superstar of LeBron and Magic, they respect winning at the highest level. So, for me to be able to do it with them, to help LeBron’s legacy, it means everything for me.