New Lakers coach wants to lead team ‘back on top’

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Wave Wire Services

EL SEGUNDO — The Los Angeles Lakers formally introduced Darvin Ham as their new coach June 6, following general manager Rob Pelinka praising him for his character, approach and knowledge acquired from coaching three seasons in what is now the NBA G League and 11 in the NBA.

“When someone begins his NBA coaching career at the G League level and goes all the way through playing an integral role on the front bench of an NBA championship team, it really speaks to a certain strength of character,” Pelinka said in a statement announcing that Ham had signed a multi-year contract to replace the fired Frank Vogel.

“Our players and fans will immediately identify with Darvin’s no-nonsense and hard-working approach, which we feel will bring toughness and a competitive edge to all we do. When you add that to Darvin’s sophisticated grasp of in-game strategy and deep knowledge of the game of basketball, we have the ideal coach for this next chapter in Lakers history.”

At his introductory news conference, Ham said he will work to put the Lakers “back on top of the food chain.”

“I think the sky is the limit,” he said. “We’re not putting a ceiling on our situation. We’ll go as far as our daily preparation takes us. … We’re going to get better every day, that’s what we’re going to do. And the things we’re going to do in that daily process will lead to the type of success this franchise and this city has been accustomed to.”

Ham takes over a team that was 33-49 in the 2021-22 season, missing the playoffs two seasons after winning the NBA championship. LeBron James missed 24 games due to injuries while fellow all-star Anthony Davis missed 41 to injuries and one because of flu-like symptoms.

Ham began his coaching career in 2008 as an assistant with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League. He become the coach of the rebranded New Mexico Thunderbirds in 2010.

Ham began his NBA coaching career in 2011 as a Lakers’ assistant coach. He spent two years with the Lakers and was an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks for the following five seasons. Ham spent the past four seasons on the Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching staff, including helping guide them to the NBA championship in 2021.

Ham heaped praise on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and thanked him for giving him the opportunity to grow as a coach.

“I’m forever grateful for him and what he did for my career,” Ham said. “I couldn’t be sitting in this chair without him allowing me to learn, grow and excel on his watch. I love him to death. We went from colleagues to friends to brothers.”

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who like Ham was raised in Saginaw, Michigan, echoed Pelinka’s prediction that Ham would bring “a toughness” to the Lakers.

“I think he’s going to bring a toughness, a blue-collar mentality just because that’s how he’s built,” Green told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s how he’s raised. You have to be that way from Saginaw.

“I think it’ll be a different toughness that they haven’t seen. And he’s going to command and require a different respect level that they haven’t really have had. … And I think that will bode well for that team.”

Ham’s hiring also drew praise from James, who tweeted “So damn EXCITED!!!!!!! Congrats and welcome Coach DHam!!” shortly after Ham’s hiring was first reported May 27.

Terms of the contract and its length were not disclosed. ESPN, which was first to report the hiring May 27, reported the contract was for four years.

The Times reported the Lakers met with former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, former NBA coach Mark Jackson, Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin before narrowing the search to Ham, Stotts and Atkinson.

Ham played eight seasons in the NBA and was a member of the Detroit Pistons team that defeated the Lakers to win the 2004 NBA championship. He played collegiately at Texas Tech, gaining fame for shattering a backboard with a dunk during the 1996 NCAA tournament, which made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

 

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