Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has earned respect from his peers over his 15-year coaching career, in large part due to his work ethic and gratitude.
Over the years, Ham has served as a highly regarded assistant coach with teams such as the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. Since his last hire in June 2022, Ham is currently fulfilling his first head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is currently 14 games in his new position.
His assertiveness and dedication helped get him into such important coaching positions, and those traits have only developed since he was first brewed himself as a young player. Eligible as a wing for eight NBA seasons, Ham has played for the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, Bucks, Hawks and Detroit Pistons.
A respected role player during his high school years in Milwaukee, Ham was excited to learn how to make a difference in areas beyond scoring goals. As a coach, the former Texas Tech small forward instills this in his own players to help them identify effective roles.
“While many of his contemporaries point to his personality as the strength of his coaching, they are also quick to point out that there is a strong X-and-O understanding, particularly matching to players’ specific strengths, as his coach once did did. ” (Via Kyle Goon, OC Register).
Ham credits a list of coaches he keeps in his circle for advice, from Mike Budenholzer (his head coach when he was an assistant with the Hawks and Bucks), Chauncey Billups, former Pistons teammate and current Portland Trail Blazers head coach, Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins and former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
Ham has a particularly close relationship with Snyder. Aside from the well-known story of how Snyder loaned Ham his van in 2011, their friendship stems from a deeper appreciation and can be traced back to 2008.
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Ham and Snyder’s careers intersected when Ham requested a trade to Austin while playing for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. During this time, Snyder also served as Austin’s head coach.
Over a decade later, the two remain on good terms, and Ham frequently turns to Snyder for coaching wisdom. Snyder talks about the relationship between the two:
“I mostly ask questions and try to help him think. He knows his team and he knows what he wants from them.” (Via Kyle Goon, OC Register).
Whether it’s teaching defensive schemes and rotations, or simply instilling a level of confidence in the players he works with, Ham’s attention to detail doesn’t go unnoticed.
He takes that position with pride no matter the circumstances, even when his Lakers face a difficult 4-10 start. In a press conference earlier this season, Ham acknowledged the team’s struggles:
“I’m not the type of person who wants to wake up every day without a challenge in their life.”
Amid such challenges, Ham strives to preserve and expand his legacy—that of the Lakers, that of LeBron James, and his own.
“I’m not saying you won’t change and get more nuanced because the head coaching part of it will do that to you,” he said. “But more likely, the man who goes into the job is the same man who comes out. He believes in people. He is not afraid of difficult circumstances. He’s the guy who maintains his integrity all the time.”