SAN FRANCISCO – When Darvin Ham walked onto the ground at Chase Center on Tuesday night, the 14-year journey he took to finally change into an NBA head coach raced through his mind. Nothing has ever come easy for the undrafted former NBA journeyman.
And as he glanced into the sold-out crowd and the players on the ground, the truth of him being the brand new Los Angeles Lakers coach set in and he nearly shed a tear before the season opening tipoff.
“I used to be just unbelievably thankful as I used to be walking through the tunnel initially of the sport. Just unbelievably thankful,” said Ham, following the Lakers’ 123-109 season-opening loss to the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. “I’m walking out, I’m looking up and I see everyone on the market. I see Draymond [Green] before the sport. I’m taking a look at the gang. the sector. my team. LeBron [James] on the brink of go.
“I got here this near getting emotional. Just thankfulness. There aren’t any other words I can use apart from I’m completely thankful to God. It was real.”
There may be plenty of pressure on Ham, who landed a primary head coaching gig with a storied Lakers franchise that has won 18 championships. This Lakers roster includes arguably the best NBA player of all time in James and one other in forward Anthony Davis, who’s on the NBA seventy fifth Anniversary team. The Lakers, nevertheless, were injury-plagued last season and didn’t make the play-in game for the playoffs last season.
The coaching debut itself wasn’t as memorable Ham would have dreamed, because the Lakers trailed by as many as 27 points to the reigning champs before losing. In regard to the Lakers missing 30 of 40 3-pointers, James said, “to be honest, we’re not a team constructed of great shooting.” Guard Russell Westbrook, who has long been embroiled in trade rumors, also gave Ham an early-season challenge by stating after the Warriors’ loss that he “absolutely” believes coming off the bench in a preseason game Oct. 14 contributed to his hamstring injury.
Take into accout that this Lakers team also had nine recent players on the lively roster Tuesday. Despite the loss, growing pains and the Westbrook soap opera, Ham believes this team will likely be a talented one once the chemistry improves.
“Chemistry isn’t like Malt-O-Meal. It’s not easy,” Ham said. “You don’t just throw it within the microwave. That’s something that must be baked over the course of time and we’ll get there. The more we keep getting the reps in once we are about to practice and shoot around, film work, we’ll get to the purpose where we all know one another and it’s second nature the best way we play basketball. That definitely is the goal, and it takes time. Just got to be willing to be patient.”
From left to right: Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham talks with Sacramento Kings vice chairman of player engagement Alvin Gentry and player Alonzo Gee before a preseason game between the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ham’s skilled basketball profession began with challenges, as he went undrafted out of Texas Tech in 1996. Even so, the brawny and hard-playing 6-foot-7 240-pounder managed to play in 417 NBA games for six teams, winning an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. In 2008, Ham began his pro coaching profession as an assistant coach with the G League Albuquerque Thunderbirds for 2 seasons before becoming their head coach.
The Lakers gave him his first coaching opportunity within the NBA as an assistant coach from 2011 to 2013. Next up was tutelage as an assistant coach under longtime NBA head coach Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks won an NBA championship in 2021 with Ham as a member of their coaching staff.
Ham finally landed a head coaching opportunity with the Lakers on June 3. He turned down interest for the Charlotte Hornets’ head coach job. Not having a golden road on the approach to becoming head coach made the journey “more gratifying” for Ham.
“Nobody co-signed me,” Ham said. “I wasn’t anyone’s guy. I wasn’t grandfathered into nothing. It was just meeting the correct people along the best way. Acquiring great knowledge that I added to my repertoire. Finally, landing with an amazing coach [Budenholzer] and having great relationships with people in my path.
“Now, I get a chance just like the [new Sacramento Kings head coach] Mike Browns of the world as a I transition to a recent position inside the game, after which landing with an amazing Hall of Fame coach in Coach Bud and having a consistent program to check under and learn from. There have been other great coaches on our staff. It’s more gratifying.”
Ham said he received quite a few well-wishes from coaches and former teammates before his head coaching debut against the Warriors. Budenholzer reached out in addition to former Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. So did Nebraska assistant coach Doc Sadler, who was an assistant coach at Texas Tech when Ham played there. Ham’s former Pistons teammate Ben Wallace also spoke with Ham. Several of Ham’s members of the family offered well-wishes, too.
“Bud sent me some good things. Everybody sent me some good things. Just great messages,” Ham said.
Every loss with the Lakers is magnified because of their history and global following. Ham, nevertheless, found a silver lining within the defeat because the Lakers still fought within the fourth quarter trimming their deficit to 12, 103-91, following an acrobatic Westbrook alley-oop dunk with 4:56 remaining. The Warriors finished the sport with a 20-18 run and didn’t cause Ham to take out his starters until there was 1:52 remaining.
While Ham hates “this losing taste in my mouth,” he had a motivational outlook for his team after the defeat.
“There may be a care factor,” Ham said. “You’ve to care about competing. You possibly can’t take a look at it as this isn’t a game thrown away since it’s still early because that mentality will seep in and stick with you throughout the season. You’ve to have a care think about the best way you perform and compete.
“We have now to be competitive in any respect times. We will live with the outcomes so long as we compete and proceed to compete. I told them I used to be pleased with them because we all know this team [the Warriors]. They’ll embarrass you. That they had a push where they went up, but we climbed out way back and fought back. It just didn’t work. But we fought to shrink the lead.”
From left to right: Los Angeles Lakers players LeBron James, Anthony Davis, coach Darvin Ham and guard Russell Westbrook, pose for photos on the 2022 Lakers media day on the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, California, on Sept. 26.
David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Every day News via Getty Images
One good sign for Ham as the brand new head coach of the Lakers is that James and Davis are ecstatic he was hired. Davis said his former teammate Jrue Holiday, a guard with Milwaukee Bucks, and other NBA players spoke highly of him before his arrival. James said he was already sold on the first-year head coach before he coached the season opener.
“I like him and his system,” Davis told Andscape. “He’s one among those coaches you’ll run through a brick wall for. He got your back to make you’re employed hard for him. He’s definitely a player’s coach. He’s been great for all of us. He lets us play freely offensively and keeps a defensive edge.
“We’ll return and take a look at [the loss] and learn. He calls it wins and lessons. There are lessons with our loss. We’ll return, take a look at film and recover for Thursday [against the LA Clippers].”
Said James: “He’s ready where he ought to be. We’re delighted, completely satisfied and fortunate for him to be on our side. He’s going to have a protracted profession as a head coach.”
At the tip of the 2019-20 NBA season, the league only had 4 African American head coaches out of 30 total despite the indisputable fact that about 75 to 80% of the players are Black. Before the beginning of the 2020 NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the low variety of Black head coaches needed major improvement. Silver’s words got here true, as now 15 of the 30 coaches within the NBA are Black, including Ham.
While Ham is completely satisfied about the rise within the variety of Black head coaches, he has larger sights for African Americans within the NBA.
“That is an all-time high for Black coaches, but I hope it spills into the front office,” Ham said. “I hope they begin getting the manager positions. I hope they begin really getting a foothold in ownership. It’s the NBA. We have now a powerful presence with regards to who’s in front of the camera. But behind the camera, not a lot. We still have a protracted approach to go.
“The league has really been great diversifying itself when it comes to minorities, women, and equal opportunities for everyone. But still, the upper up you bought to go, the more diverse it ought to be. It should represent what you see on the coaching staffs. The vast majority of the front offices are doing their job taking a look at all candidates. But we want more, increasingly diversity when it comes to front office decision-makers and ownership groups.”
Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA author for Andscape. He used to have the ability to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been capable of in years and his knees still hurt.