The Lakers have hired Darvin Ham to be their next coach, sources told The Times on Friday.
The decision came after Ham met the Lakers on Thursday in Los Angeles, capping a process that began April 11 when the team fired Frank Vogel after his 33-49 season. The agreement would run for four years.
Ham, 48, has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks, winning a championship last year. He had an eight-year NBA career as a player, winning a title against the Lakers with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
The Lakers did not announce the hire and declined to comment.
“So excited,” LeBron James tweeted Friday night. “Congratulations and welcome Coach Dham!!”
According to sources with knowledge of the process, Ham will be given a great deal of autonomy, including the ability to choose his own coaching staff. He is expected to meet with current Lakers staff members next week.
Ham has impressed the Lakers with his ability to communicate and hold people accountable, sources say, a crucial element in their search to replace Vogel.
“In terms of what this team needs right now, we think with obviously superstars in our team, we want a strong voice that can inspire players to play at the highest level of competition every day. evenings,” general manager Rob Pelinka said after the team fired Vogel. “And I think that will be one of the resounding qualities that we look for to hold everyone, from the best player in our team to the 15th man, to some degree of accountability.”
Sources said the Lakers were hoping to find a candidate who could receive organization-wide support, which hasn’t always been the case with Vogel despite winning the 2020 championship.
The Lakers, sources said, interviewed former Portland coach Terry Stotts this week and planned to speak to Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson, but after meeting with Ham on Thursday, the Lakers decided they had found their man.
During his nearly 10 years as an assistant to Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, Ham built a reputation for his ability to relate to players with passion, honesty and a competitive spirit. He is considered a complete coach who has slightly more defensive expertise.
Ham’s trip to the NBA was unlikely, playing only his senior year of high school basketball. He attended Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado for one season before transferring to Texas Tech.
He gained some national fame in the 1996 NCAA Tournament when he broke the backboard with a dunk against North Carolina. A photo from the slam landed him the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Ham went undrafted but signed with Denver, beginning an NBA career that included stops at Indiana, Washington, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Detroit. In 417 games, he averaged 2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.4 minutes. Ham has also played in Spain and the Philippines.
After working in the development league, Ham began his NBA coaching career with the Lakers as a player development coach in 2011, working for Mike Brown.
In 2013, Ham moved to Atlanta to work for Budenholzer, beginning a relationship with him that would continue in Milwaukee.
His journey from high school to the NBA as a role player and lifelong assistant gives him a broad base of knowledge as he carves out a career in professional basketball.
He will be the 28th coach in Lakers history and the fourth black coach. Ham is the second first-time coach the Lakers have hired in their last three searches. The team hired former Laker Luke Walton in 2016 after his successful stint as an assistant and interim coach at Golden State. Walton went 98-148 with the Lakers.
The search to land Ham was largely uneventful, a change from the dramatic process of replacing Walton in 2019. During that process, a frontrunner, Monty Williams, opted to take the coaching job of the Phoenix Suns. Another, Tyronn Lue, disagreed with the Lakers on key issues such as salary, contract length and coaching staff decisions.
Initially, league sources believed the Lakers would pursue established coaches like Quin Snyder of Utah, Nick Nurse of Toronto and Doc Rivers of Philadelphia. All three, however, are under contract, and with sparse draft capital, the Lakers lacked the compensation to acquire a coach from another team.
Snyder, sources said, was not interested in a move to the Lakers. While Rivers seemed like a serious option to some Lakers decision makers, 76ers president Daryl Morey said Rivers would stay with the team after being knocked out of the playoffs by Miami.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard, who interviewed the Lakers in 2019, was also never a serious option due to his desire to stay with the Wolverines to coach his two sons.
In their search, the team spoke with Ham, Stotts, Atkinson, former NBA coach Mark Jackson, Milwaukee assistant Charles Lee and Toronto assistant Adrian Griffin before narrowing the search on Ham, Stotts and Atkinson.