How Darvin Ham stands out in Lakers coaching history

The Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Darvin Ham on Friday. The decision comes three days after the franchise was eliminated in the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs by the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

While there’s no big shame in losing to Nikola Jokić and a very good Nuggets team, Ham was benched all season due to some questionable coaching decisions, especially when it came to the starting lineup. Coupled with the sky-high expectations that come with coaching a team led by LeBron James, the change isn’t entirely shocking.

The Lakers will now begin the search for the 29th head coach in franchise history. However, before looking forward, it is important to look back and contextualize Ham’s tenure at the helm. How does it compare to its counterparts throughout the franchise’s history?

History of the Lakers coach

With his firing on Friday, Ham will officially end his Lakers career with a 90-74 regular season record. His 90 wins rank 14th all-time in franchise history, more than Mike D’Antoni but less than Joe Mullaney. The all-time leader in Lakers history is (you guessed it) Phil Jackson, who recorded 610 wins in his dominant years with the franchise.

Ham’s 164 games off the bench put him in a five-way tie for 10th in Lakers franchise history. The other coaches with exactly 164 games under their belt are the aforementioned Mullaney, Butch van Breda Kolff, Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Byron Scott. For HBO fans Time to winPaul Westhead is next on the list with 161 games managed. The organization’s historical leader in this category is, once again, Jackson with 902 games coached.

In terms of winning percentage, Ham will finish his time in Los Angeles with a .549 average. That ranks 19th all-time in Lakers history, ahead of Randy Pfund (.452) and behind Rudy Tomjanovich (.558). Technically speaking, the franchise leader in winning percentage is Bernie Bickerstaff, who went 4-1 in 2013 and therefore owns an even .800 winning percentage. However, among coaches with more than 10 games coached, Pat Riley leads at .733.

Ham’s playoff record isn’t all that flattering in light of the giants who came before him, although he avoided the ignominy of becoming the 11th coach in Lakers history to not coach a single playoff game. His 21 postseason appearances are good for 12th all-time, but his 9-12 record (a .429 winning percentage) ranks 13th. Jackson leads all Lakers coaches with 118 playoff wins, but Riley won at a better pace, posting a .685 winning percentage during his tenure.

As the numbers suggest, Ham had a good run as the Lakers’ head coach. He wasn’t drenched in glory but he wasn’t drenched in failure either. A decidedly mediocre mandate that came to an end on Friday.