Darvin Ham carved out a nearly decade-long career due to being respected and loved in the locker room.
After years as an assistant coach, it was only a matter of time before he moved six inches over to lead a franchise — reportedly being selected as the next caretaker for the proud Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise at a crossroads of sorts.
But those who know him, and know of his reputation, believe he’s well-equipped for the job and fits an archetype for what the Lakers were looking for. Ham spent the past few years with the Milwaukee Bucks as a top assistant under Mike Budenholzer, developing a reputation for being a player’s coach — a term several executives used to describe him.
Other top candidates included Kenny Atkinson and Terry Stotts. Ham is the only one who played in the NBA.
Ham makes 15 Black coaches in the NBA, with one opening in Charlotte left to be filled. It’s a bigger victory for the league considering the issues the NBA had with diversity as recently as two years ago.
“If you look around the league now, the coaches who are having successes — Steve Kerr, Monty Williams, Willie Green — [not only have] excellent knowledge but an ability to connect and hold [players] accountable,” a high-ranking league executive told Yahoo Sports. “He has a personable blend of that. A strong individual. He can garner respect from his players. I like it.”
Most front office executives believe the Lakers will hold onto Russell Westbrook and the last year of his contract rather than attaching a sweetener to make him more attractive, so Ham will have to make the best of a mismatched, underachieving roster.
The Lakers were one of the league’s worst teams at 33-49, with the 2020 title they won in the Orlando “bubble” seeming worlds away. Ham will be tasked with rebuilding a bottom-five defense, first and foremost.
The Lakers battled a lack of chemistry and cohesiveness on the floor and endured rumors of too many cooks in the kitchen off it.
Perhaps hiring Ham will quiet some level of the noise, but the drama has been consistent with the Lakers franchise for nearly a decade.
It’s important to note the Lakers made a play for University of Michigan coach Juwan Howard, a former longtime NBA player, one-time teammate of LeBron James and assistant coach. Howard declined, but it could’ve been a signal the Lakers were looking for someone with playing experience to replace Frank Vogel.
When asked about the strong personalities, such as coaching James in an advanced stage of his career, a strong-minded Westbrook coming off the worst year of his career and Anthony Davis being unavailable for long stretches, multiple executives reached by Yahoo Sports expressed confidence Ham will be able to adjust and handle the locker room.
As for potential conflict, one executive said with a chuckle, “Don’t try him.”