Darvin Ham is now the finalist for more than one head coaching position in the NBA. He was tabbed as one of three finalists to replace Frank Vogel as the Los Angeles Lakers next head coach. Out of Ham, Terry Stotts, and Kenny Atkinson, the Lakers were impressed the most by Ham during the interview process. If the rumors are true then he’ll have a good job of landing the heralded Lakers job, since not only did he impress in his interview but he’s also the preferred choice by one LeBron James.
Even if the Lakers end up going a different route, Ham is also a strong candidate for the Charlotte Hornets job. This makes sense since Ham and the president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak worked together on the Lakers back in 2011-2013. Kupchak was the Lakers general manager, a position he held from 1994 up until his release in 2017. Ham earned his first NBA coaching job and was hired by Kupchak to be a Lakers assistant coach in 2011. Ham will find familiarity in either the Lakers or Hornets positions which is a luxury the long-time assistant coach deserves.
After his two-year stint with the Lakers under Mike Brown initially, then Mike D’Antoni proceeding Brown’s release, Ham was hired by the Atlanta Hawks. He worked under head coach Mike Budenholzer, the same coach that he works under currently in Milwaukee. Budenholzer and Ham have worked together for nine years and the partnership has been fruitful for both sides. Ham has developed into one of the most known and respected assistant coaches in the entire NBA. He’s adopted Budenholzer’s coaching philosophies and been a part of many highly successful teams. In Atlanta, Ham was the assistant coach for their franchise record-setting 2014-15 season where they went 60-22 in the regular season.
Since following Budenholzer to the Bucks, they’ve been ever more successful as a duo. In the four years with Ham on the staff, the Bucks have had three 50 plus win seasons including one 60-win season, a 69 percent winning percentage in that tenure, and an NBA championship run in 2021. Now after many years of success as an assistant, Ham will emerge from the Budenholzer coaching tree and look to forge his own path.
If a team like the Lakers or Hornets is going to hire Darvin Ham then they know that he brings loads of head coaching qualities to the table. For one, Ham is widely known as an excellent players coach who has a strong presence in the locker room. Ham had a strong playing career back in the late 90s and early 2000s. He played for the Nuggets, Wizards, Bucks, and Pistons. Ham was known for being an excellent dunker. In 1996, he even shattered a backboard at Texas Tech.
During his time as a player for the Bucks, Ham was also involved in the creation of a famous NBA play that’s still commonly run to this day. The “Hammer Play” was founded by the then Bucks head coach George Karl and named after Darvin Ham. The set involves a player with the ball on one block or wing. When they get a screen or drive to the basket, a player on the weak side of the court sets a screen on the wing defender which opens up a corner three look. Karl created the play to get Ray Allen an open three and Ham’s job was to make the crosscourt pass.
Ham’s rich playing career has helped him with connecting to players. It’s arguably the most valuable aspect of being an NBA coach in today’s league. Under Budenholzer, Ham had the chance to connect with and develop the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Al Horford, Brook Lopez, and Paul Millsap. Headstrong leadership is what the Lakers and Hornets need and that’s something Ham can provide.
The other major way Ham can make an impact as an NBA head coach is through his proven system. Ham will surely base his offensive and defensive systems on what Mike Budenholzer preached in Atlanta and Milwaukee. Offensively, this system is built on forming their own pace of play and ball movement. This was seen in Atlanta where those Hawks teams were all about team basketball over one player’s brilliance. On the defensive end, Ham will bring a strong culture. Defense was his calling card on this end and Ham knows how to teach it. He was instrumental in creating the Bucks’ defensive system with Giannis and Lopez. Protecting the rim at all costs is the primary goal of this system and it served as the anchor to the Bucks’ regular-season success.
Ham will implement those styles of play if he can in year one. Of course, you’re only as good as your personnel in the NBA so it may not be an ideal system fit right away. However, Ham will have his chance to work with whoever his GM will be on bringing players that fit his system on both sides of the ball. In the long term, an NBA team will reap the rewards of hiring Darvin Ham as their next head coach. His proven track record as an assistant, ready-made systems, and strong player-based leadership style will help translate to the head coaching level very well and make an NBA team happy.