While no Lakers coaching candidate will necessarily need the approval of Klutch Sports and LeBron James to get hired, it sure would make the waters moving forward smoother sailing if the next head coach was approved by the star, his powerful agency that also reps Anthony Davis, and the front office. With the two sides in some sort of pseudo Cold War after the disastrous 2021-22 season, having a coach that suits the desires of both parties could go some way in uniting both parties heading into an important offseason for everyone.
Fortunately, one of the earliest candidates — and perhaps one of the favorites — appears to have that approval. Darvin Ham is the only candidate so far that the Lakers have requested (and been granted) permission to interview for their head coach opening. It’s also not the first time the former Lakers assistant has been on the team’s radar for their open head coaching job, as he apparently was on the list of potential candidates back in 2019 before the franchise eventually hired Frank Vogel.
Back then, the dynamic between the Lakers and Klutch was a bit different, but Ham still reportedly was Klutch Approved™, according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, who dropped the nugget during his recent appearance on the Locked on Lakers podcast:
“I know as a source that he was on the OK list of the LeBron James/Rich Paul (group) last time, that cohort... He is tough, and he is also really smart, and I will tell you this: Mike Budenholzer suffers no fools. He is the pickiest. There are people who find it obnoxious, like either ‘you’re one of my kind of people, or you’re not, either you get it or you don’t.’ He (Ham) gets it! And there is something to be said for that, because look who the graduates are. I think history is treating Kenny Atkinson really well. Quin Snyder. Taylor Jenkins. Need I go on?
“And Darvin is a guy who could both mediate, and by the way do some cool things to help shepherd in a new era, because LeBron is not going to be around much longer. And by the way, somebody who will have difficult conversations with [Anthony] Davis.”
On Wednesday, Arnovitz also released his annual look at the NBA’s top coaching candidates, which included an in-depth look at Ham as well.
Longtime Mike Budenholzer assistant Darvin Ham has little more to prove. He enjoyed a blue-collar eight-year NBA playing career, has contributed to a championship team, has absorbed the organizational prowess of his boss, has built meaningful relationships with players 1-through-15, and has a tactical flair. He brings versatility as a coach candidate — one who can get the buy-in from a veteran team poised to contend, but also preside over a rebuilding effort focused on player development, where he also excels. Ham interviewed for the Minnesota and Washington (where he was a finalist) jobs in 2019, and the Clippers and Indiana jobs in 2020 (he was a finalist for the Pacers), and both the Lakers and Hornets have invited Ham for their current openings. With an older Lakers roster that’s poised for the present, but might need to pivot to youth in the near future, and a Hornets squad building for the future, Ham would offer a voice that could meet both needs.
Pertaining to the Lakers, Ham is a former assistant under Mike Brown before moving on to the Hawks and later on to the Bucks as an assistant as well. For a Lakers team that also tends to limit itself to staff members with past ties to the organization, Ham threads the needle of both a qualified candidate and one with those aforementioned connections.
On top of that, the Lakers are in a situation in which they could soon be entering the post-LeBron James era and Ham’s flexibility as a coach could make him the best candidate to bridge that gap. The obvious questions would center around Ham’s lack of experience as a head coach, but he’s certainly done all he could possibly do to quell those concerns as an assistant.
It will create an interesting decision for both the Lakers when it comes to coaching candidates and Ham when it comes to all the potential openings. But hiring him could ultimately prove to be the perfect intersection of meeting the needs and desires of all parties involved.