Darvin Ham was introduced as the 28th coach in Los Angeles Lakers history on Monday afternoon at the UCLA Health Training Center.
“The fact that I got my start as a coach here, this place will always be special to me,” said Ham. “I always paid attention to what was going on with the Lakers even in my others travels in Atlanta and Milwaukee. So it’s like a homecoming to me, in all seriousness.”
Ham, who was a Lakers assistant coach from 2011-13, spent the last several seasons with Milwaukee, aiding the 2020-21 title-winning Bucks in his 12th season overall as a coach.
A tough yet positive individual, Ham grew up in Saginaw, Mich., as an all-around athlete whose first love was football. He played college basketball at Texas Tech before fighting his way towards an 8-year NBA playing career despite going undrafted. He also had a stint as a G-League head coach and GM prior to getting the call to join the Lakers.
Darvin Ham at UHTC
“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,” summarized Lakers VP of Basketball Ops Rob Pelinka. “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. We could not be more honored and proud to name Darvin Ham as our new head coach.”
While Ham is officially the 28th coach of the Lakers, only 17 men have coached a full NBA season, with 11 coaches either serving on an interim basis, or being let go before a full campaign.
As a player, Ham played a role, typically in the power forward spot. He never averaged more than 22.6 minutes per game, with 5.1 points and 4.9 boards serving as career highs in 1999-2000 for Milwaukee. He also played for Detroit – where he won a title in 2004 – as well as Atlanta, Milwaukee, Washington, Indiana and Denver.
That grind he experienced as a player who went abroad to compete in three different countries has very much informed the way he coaches.
“I think it makes you more appreciative,” he said. “I wasn’t blessed with this otherworldly talent. I was a pretty good athlete who could hold my own on the court a little bit, but the sweet jump shots, the no look passes, that wasn’t a part of my game.
“I was a blue-collar contributor on a lot of teams … it prepares you, creates a certain type of mentality to where you don’t want to cut any corners. Understand what the details are. Whether you’re watching film, talking about coverages or doing workouts in the summer time. Being specifically locked in on what your job is going to be. Being able to coach these guys at this level … everyone has talent, but how do you focus that talent in the right areas and right directions so your team can thrive?”
Asked if he focuses more on either offense or defense, Ham said it’s all part of the game.
“I think it’s a 360-degree coaching style,” he explained. “Both parts of the floor are connected. You hear about these offensive gurus or these defensive gurus — both sides of the ball affect one another. If you’re able to play great defense, then your offense is going to look great because you’re not playing against a set defense. If you’re allowing people to score, then your offense is going to struggle because you’re playing against a set defense. So you just have to be well-rounded.”
Last time Ham was in Los Angeles as an assistant coach, he spent a lot of time with Kobe Bryant, both on the court in workouts and in the film room.
“It was great,” he reflected. “We spent a lot of time together on the practice floor, individual workouts, watching clips. And (I learned) if I can go back and forth with him, and him disagree with me and then double back and tell me I was right, we all know how stubborn he was. It gave me a wealth of confidence in myself as a coach.
“Seeing him and him sharing different ways he saw the game (was huge). And even with Russ (Westbrook), Lebron, (Anthony Davis), Giannis (Antetokounmpo) Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Al Horford, Paul Millsap … these guys I’ve been able to coach and learn from them. It’s a two-way street, not just this coach that thinks he knows it all and is barking orders. You have to be able to collaborate, communicate and understand each other. Not your way or my way, but what’s the best way to go forward? Kobe was right at the forefront of that in my development as a coach. He’s a big part of why I was able to grow the way I did as a coach.”
“It’s easy to be grateful when you find a candidate you feel is the ideal fit for what the franchise is looking for,” said Pelinka. “That’s what Coach Ham represents to us. When you have a career coaching journey that starts in the G-League … and your arc takes you to strong franchises that have had success including a championship … you have a certain DNA, fabric and strength of character, and it came through so powerfully to everybody in the coaching committee. We were able to land on coach Ham as our unanimous choice to recommend to our owner, Jeanie Buss, for her approval.
Ham has already been in touch with several Lakers players, and is very eager to get to work to see how quickly L.A. can get back to where it wants to be.
“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. The things we’re going to do in that daily process will lead to the kind of success this franchise and this city have been accustomed to.”