Sun. May 19th, 2024

Lakers fire Darvin Ham: L.A. makes another coaching change after rocky season, first-round playoff exit

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The Los Angeles Lakers have fired head coach Darvin Ham, the team announced Friday. Ham, a veteran NBA player and assistant coach, was given only two years at the helm in Los Angeles following another relatively brief Lakers tenure from Frank Vogel, who led the team for just three years.

“We greatly appreciate Darvin’s efforts on behalf of the Lakers and recognize the many accomplishments achieved over the past two seasons, including last year’s remarkable run to the Western Conference Finals,” Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said in a statement. “We all want to thank Darvin for his dedication and positivity. While this was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action following a full review of the season. This organization will remain unwavering in its commitment to deliver championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans around the world.”

Ham was initially hired in Los Angeles following Vogel’s failure to successfully integrate Russell Westbrook into the roster. Ham successfully convinced Westbrook to accept a bench role, and despite a 2-10 start, his debut season in Los Angeles turned out to be a success. The Lakers reached the Western Conference Finals and appeared primed for another real run at the NBA Finals.

But cracks began to emerge as early as training camp for this season, when Ham surprisingly leaned on free agent addition Taurean Prince to replace the injured Jarred Vanderbilt in the Lakers’ starting lineup rather than returning 2023 deadline addition Rui Hachimura. The decision surprised plenty within the organization who saw Hachimura as a cornerstone following a strong 2023 playoff run, and the Lakers would eventually finish the season with a 26-13 record in games that he started, but did not get a full-time starting job until February.

Inconsistent lineup decisions like that played a role in Ham’s dismissal. So did strategic concerns from the players. LeBron James spoke openly about defying Ham’s strategy during a critical game against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the season. A recent report from Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic shared the depth of the frustration members of the team felt, with one player reportedly saying, “We need to be coached, too.”

The Nuggets series proved to be the final nail in Ham’s coffin. The Lakers lost the series 4-1, but led all five games at halftime. They blew a 20-point Game 2 lead and lost Game 5 on a game-winning shot by Jamal Murray that looked extremely similar to the one he made in Game 2. Denver has now won 12 of its past 13 games against the Lakers.

With Ham gone, the Lakers will embark on their third coaching search in six offseasons. It will be a clean slate as the Lakers parted ways with the entire coaching staff beyond Ham, per ESPN, including Phil Handy, who coached under both Ham and Frank Vogel in L.A.

The 2019 search that led to Vogel yielded a championship in 2020. Vogel, even at the time, was an experienced, winning head coach. A veteran team like this one would surely prefer such a leader. After failing with a first-timer in Ham and sensing the shrinking window James — who could enter free agency this summer — provides as he approaches his 40th birthday, the Lakers must get this next coaching hire right.

Here are nine names the Lakers might consider during their search, including Ty Lue and James’ podcast partner JJ Redick.

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