If the Los Angeles Lakers hired a new head coach on Friday, they didn’t go for the biggest name out there. They also didn’t choose a man with a lot of experience as head coach.
But the man they hired – Darvin Ham – is a person who is not only incredibly familiar with the game, but who can see things from the perspective of a player and a coach.
LA treated its head coach search and hiring process as if it were just a family business, and few knew the direction the franchise was going to take.
Ham wasn’t a name that was widely expected to get the job at first, but after digging into his resume he has many accolades that qualify him for the job.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new Lakers head coach.
Ham played college basketball at Texas Tech from 1993-1996, 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 scored the most games in SWAC in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons with 30 and 32 games, respectively. He finished in the top five in 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.
Off to the NBA
Ham was not selected in the NBA draft but signed as a free agent with the Denver Nuggets in October 1996.
That was the beginning of a long 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 the 3rd
He was a member of the 2004 Detroit Pistons team that won the NBA title and played in two other NBA Finals and three Eastern Conference Finals.
The assistant coach
Ham’s coaching career began in 2014 with the Atlanta Hawks, where he served as an assistant coach for five seasons. He then spent four seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and helped lead the Bucks to the championship in 2021. His record as head coach (provisional) is 18-8, 5-5 in the playoffs.
The right decision?
Chris Broussard believes Ham was the best candidate for the Lakers but doesn’t think LA will look much different than 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 just release him if it doesn’t work out early.”
Colin Cowherd also believes the Lakers will look like they did last season, and he doesn’t think the hiring will really move the needle. His response to hiring Ham is “good luck”.
The Lakers and Ham have a lot to figure out, not just because of the Westbrook situation, but because they only have three players signed for next season: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker. (Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn also have player options they are expected to pick up).
This allowed Ham to be greeted with the same momentum as last season, trying to get Westbrook, James and Davis to “work” together on the floor.
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