When the Los Angeles Lakers hired a new head coach on Friday, they didn’t go for the biggest name out there. Nor did they pick a man with a ton of head coaching experience.
But the man they did hire — Darvin Ham — is a person who is not only incredibly familiar with the game but one who can see things from the perspective of both a player and a coach.
L.A. treated its head coach search and hiring process like it was family business only, with few knowing which direction the franchise would head.
Ham wasn’t a name widely expected to get the position at first, but after digging into his résumé, he has plenty of accolades that qualify him for the job.
Here is everything to know about the new Lakers head coach.
Ham played college basketball at Texas Tech from 1993-96, averaging 8.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 22.9 minutes per game. He shot 59.7% from the field and 49.8% from the free-throw line.
He tied for the most games played in the SWAC during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, with 30 and 32 games, respectively. He finished in the top five in the SWAC in field goal percentage for three straight seasons. His highest field goal percentage (61.8%) came in his freshman season.
Perhaps most famously, Ham broke a backboard while dunking in a 1996 NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina.
On to the NBA
Ham was not selected in the NBA draft, but he signed as a free agent with the Denver Nuggets in October 1996.
That was the start of a lengthy career in which he played eight seasons for six different teams (Denver, Indiana, Washington, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Detroit). As a pro, Ham averaged 2.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 12.4 minutes per game. He shot 51.8% from the field, 49.4% from the free-throw line, and 25.0% from 3.
He was a member of the 2004 Detroit Pistons team that won the NBA title and played in two other NBA Finals, as well as three Eastern Conference finals.
The assistant coach
Ham’s coaching career started in 2014 with the Atlanta Hawks, where he was an assistant coach for five seasons. He then spent four seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, helping guide the Bucks to the championship in 2021. His head coaching record (interim) is 18-8, 5-5 in the playoffs.
The right choice?
Chris Broussard believes that Ham was the best candidate in play for the Lakers, but doesn’t think L.A. will look much different than it did last season — unless something is done with Russell Westbrook.
“If you end up having to keep Russ because you can’t trade him, they have a plan C to where if it’s not working early, just release him.”
Colin Cowherd also believes the Lakers will look a lot like they did last season, and he doesn’t think the hiring will really move the needle. His response to the hiring of Ham is, “good luck.”
There will be a lot for the Lakers and Ham to figure out, not only due to the Westbrook situation but because they only have three players under contract for next season: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker. (Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn also have player options that they are expected to pick up).
So, Ham could be greeted with the same dynamic of last season, trying to make Westbrook, James, and Davis “work” on the floor together.
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