Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after 2 seasons and early playoff exit

By Shams Charania, Jovan Buha and Jenna West

The Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Darvin Ham after his second season with the team, which ended Monday with a first-round playoff exit with a loss to the Denver Nuggets, the organization announced Friday. Sources familiar with the matter say that an extensive search will soon begin with candidates such as Mike Budenholzer, Kenny Atkinson, JJ Redick and, if available, Ty Lue, among others.

“We all want to thank Darvin for his dedication and positivity,” said Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka. “While it was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action after a full review of the season. “This organization will continue to be unwavering in its commitment to delivering championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans around the world.”

Rumors about Ham’s possible firing intensified as the Lakers’ season progressed and seemed inevitable when they only won one game in their best-of-seven playoff series against the Nuggets. The low point came for the Lakers when they blew a 20-point second-half lead in Game 2 of the series.

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After a successful first year as coach in which he showed signs of being a leader, the situation changed for Ham this season. There was tremendous respect for Ham as a person and the players appreciated his professional career and his time as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Milwaukee. But players struggled with a perceived lack of effective direction from the coaching staff.

After the second game against the Nuggets, Lakers forward Anthony Davis said, “We have moments where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

Ham responded at practice two days later and defended his coaching and staff decisions.

“I don’t think this was due to not being organized,” Ham said. “I think I have incredible knowledge and focus throughout my staff. We pride ourselves, whether it’s practices, shootouts, film sessions, games, everything, we pride ourselves on being highly efficient and organized.

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“I just put it down to being frustrated. It’s an emotional game, the way it ended and all that. But I agree to disagree with that.”

During Ham’s two years, the Lakers finished 90-74 in the regular season and 9-12 in the postseason. The Nuggets also finished the Lakers’ 2022-23 season with a four-game sweep of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers hired Ham in May 2022 after he began his NBA coaching career with the franchise as an assistant from 2011 to 2013. Ham signed a four-year contract in the range of $5 million per season, for which the team will assume the remainder of his contract after firing him.

Ham also worked as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks (2013-18) and Milwaukee Bucks (2018-22) after playing in the NBA from 1996 to 2005. He won an NBA championship off the bench for the Detroit Pistons in 2004. and as an assistant coach with the Bucks in 2021.

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(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)