The Lakers finally found their new head coach on Friday evening, hiring Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham on a four-year deal. As a first-year head coach, Ham represents a leap of faith by the Lakers as they took a risk after he impressed during the entirety of the interview process.
To make up for his lack of head coaching experience, the Lakers appear likely to look toward assembling a talented coaching staff around Ham, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Ham made a strong impression on Lakers in several areas, including his championship pedigree, his commanding presence, history of coaching stars and toughness. Ham will start assembling a staff expected to include head coaching experience. https://t.co/8hCVatbraw— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 28, 2022
There are a number of options that jump out right away. For one, fellow finalists Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson each have head coaching experience. Stotts, though, has reportedly expressed a desire not to be an assistant coach. That certainly could have been posturing considering the Lakers had not hired a head coach at that time, but Stotts will be paid by the Blazers — who fired him after the 2020-21 season — for one more season, which may lead to a decreased sense of urgency to get back into coaching if an assistant spot is all that is open.
Atkinson, meanwhile, is an interesting option. On the surface, Atkinson seems unlikely to move from the Warriors to the Lakers, especially given the fact that Mike Brown’s hiring by the Kings likely makes Atkinson the top assistant for Golden State next season.
However, Atkinson did serve as an assistant coach alongside Ham in Atlanta under Budenholzer until 2016 when he took the head coach position with Brooklyn. A potential upgrade in role or position — like being named associate head coach — could be an intriguing offer.
One name that will likely come up in discussions in the coming weeks, though he does not have head coach experience, will be Phil Handy. The current Lakers assistant coach was never reportedly interviewed for the head coach position despite expressing a willingness to take the step to become one.
Still, he has the respect of the Lakers stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, though it remains to be seen how much that will matter in the coming weeks and whether it’s enough for him to stay around. In the wake of the announcement of Ham, Handy took to his Instagram to share his reaction.
Phil Handy IG story after the Lakers hired Darvin Ham pic.twitter.com/WQlMZuRQza— LakeShowHoopsᴾᴴ (@LakeShowHoopsPH) May 28, 2022
There are also other external options available that could make sense. Steve Clifford served as an assistant in 2012-13 for the Lakers alongside Ham as well and is available, most recently coaching the Magic. But the list of currently available coaches with previous head coaching experience isn’t extensive.
Luke Walton and James Borrego were fired this offseason from the Kings and Hornets, respectively. It feels pretty safe to say the former will not be an option but nothing would immediately rule out the latter. Scott Brooks was someone the team reportedly pursued last year as an assistant and were once linked to for this head coaching search, though he feels like another longshot option.
Outside of that, the Lakers were not linked to anyone in their search that had head coaching experience and are available, so a new name may pop up in the process as well. But getting an experienced staff around Ham is imperative and a great early sign for the Lakers.