‘Fearless’ Darvin Ham is now Lakers head coach

(News4usonline) – Darvin Ham is not afraid of the pressure of leading the Los Angeles Lakers as their new head coach. For Ham, there is really no pressure at all to be the top boss of a legendary sports franchise, one that is littered with wall-to-wall Hall of Famers and an organization lit with 17 NBA championships.

That’s not to mention that he’ll be coaching several more Lakers whose Hall of Fame plaques await them in the nearby future. From where Ham has been in his life, that is no pressure at all. At his introductory press conference at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, California, Ham explained what real pressure was to him.     

“I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. I was shot in the face by accident on April 5, 1998,” Ham said. “You go through something like that, it’s going to do one or two things: it’s going to make you fearful or fearless. It made me feel fearless. I don’t feel no pressure. It’s basketball. We’ll talk about some of our military representatives across the seas fighting for our democracy. That’s pressure. This here? It’s a challenge. It’s something that can be navigated.” 

A large part of Ham’s navigation process is getting his coaching staff in sync with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Ham is excited about the possibilities of bringing the Lakers Big Three together for a title run or more.

“I talked to LeBron my first day in the gym, and I wanted to start training camp the next day,” remarked Ham. “I got so excited just to hear his excitement over the phone. Man, just to see Russ and to talk to AD and to talk to Russ, it’s just…these guys, you know, they’re not great by mistake.”

Ham continued, “They want to be able to do something. I know all of them feel this way. They want to be able to do something collectively that’s great, put another banner in this building. And it starts right now. That’s a challenge. That’s not pressure. I’ve seen real pressure in life. So, to me this is fun. This is something that’s going to be joyful.”     

June 6, 2022. Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with the ballclub during the 2011-12 season. Photo courtesy of Burt Harris/Black News Service (BNS)

Ham sounds like he is already having fun. What the Lakers have in Ham is that he is a proven winner. Ham won a title during his eight-year NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. He also checked the championship box as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks.

That pedigree, along with his grind in the NBA’s G League, earned him an opportunity to get in front of the Lakers’ brass to convince them he was the best candidate to fill the team head coaching vacancy. It didn’t hurt that the Lakers were already familiar with Ham, who spent two seasons with the team as an assistant coach.

Ham got the job, agreeing to terms on a multi-year deal with the Lakers.  When it was announced that the Lakers had made Ham their man on Friday, June 3, team general manager Rob Pelinka shared what the organization liked about their new head coach.   

“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 released statement. “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,” Pelinka added. “We could not be more honored and proud to name Darvin Ham as our new head coach.”

At the moment, Ham and the Lakers are in the honeymoon stage of their relationship. Everything is going to be peaches and cream. To keep this harmony flowing, Pelinka, Ham and the Lakers players are going to put an NBA title run in full drive. Whether that is realistic or not considering the depth of talented rosters in the NBA Western Conference, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, Ham is not putting any cap or limitation on his team.  

“The sky’s the limit,” Ham said. “We’re not putting a limit on our situation. We’ll go as far as our daily preparation takes us. You hear people [say]…Well, are they going to do this? Are they going to do that?  We’re going to get better every day, that’s what we’re going to do.  And the things that 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.”

Obviously, fixing the Lakers and everything that has gone wrong in the past two years is the immediate task for the 48-year-old Ham. That means maintaining upkeep on LeBron James, tweaking the uncomfortable fit that Russell Westbook was last season, and re-branding the team’s identity, particularly when it comes to defense.

Ham has the task that Frank Vogel once had, and that is to lead the Lakers to glory. For a year, Vogel did that, guiding LeBron James and Anthony Davis to the franchise’s 17th NBA title during the abbreviated season. Things looked so bright for the Lakers and their fans.

June 6, 2022. New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham speaks to members of the media at his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, California. Photo courtesy of Burt Harris/Black News Service (BNS)

Since then, there has been a floundering of the ways and an underwhelming level of achievement from the ballclub. Vogel got the job done right out of the gate in his first season. In the last two seasons of his three-year tenure with the Lakers, things didn’t work out quite the way Vogel wanted.

Year 2 ended with the Lakers getting bounced out of the first round by the Phoenix Suns. The 2021-22 NBA saw the Lakers sitting at home watching the postseason. Before Vogel took the Lakers to their title run in 2020, the team had gone seven seasons without a playoff series win.

For six of those years, the Lakers didn’t even make the postseason. So what Ham is expected to do is bring sustained excellence of play to the team, something that Vogel was unable to do. For Ham, this is a lot more than just a coaching gig. This is where everything started for him. He began his NBA coaching career as an assistant coach with the Purple and Gold during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 NBA seasons. So, this is home for him.  

“The fact that I got my start as a coach here, this place will always be special to me, always was special to me,” Ham said. “I always paid attention to what was going on with the Lakers, even in my other travels through Atlanta and Milwaukee. It’s like a homecoming for me.” 

Lead post photo: Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka (left) introduces Darvin Ham as the team’s new head coach at a press conference in El Segundo, California. Photo courtesy of Burt Harris/Black News Service (BNS)