The Los Angeles Lakers are seemingly off to the right foot in this 2022 offseason, setting things off by making a widely-lauded hire at head coach in signing Darvin Ham to a reported four-year deal. Now, just because the offseason has started off on the right foot, it doesn’t mean that it will end the same way. The team’s toughest offseason tasks — nailing free agency, convincing LeBron to agree to a contract extension, and deciding what to do with Russell Westbrook — still lie ahead.
Nonetheless, the Darvin Ham hire and the overall process that led to it seem to show that the Lakers front office has gotten their act together. There is a much calmer tenor to the Lakers’ moves so far than there was in the 2019 offseason, despite leading to the franchise’s 17th NBA championship in its storied history.
Back then, the Lakers hired Frank Vogel only after missing out on their top candidates, including their first choice, Tyronn Lue, who walked out on a deal before it could be completed.
The Lakers didn’t get the guy they wanted first (or maybe even second), but this time, they did. And not only that, but it seems like all of the decision-makers on the coaching committee were unanimously in favor of hiring Ham, assuming Rob Pelinka is to be believed.
“When you have a career coaching journey that starts out in the G League and you earn your stripes as a GM and as a head coach and your arc takes you to strong franchises that have had success including a championship at his last stop as a lead assistant coach on the Milwaukee Bucks, you have a certain DNA and fabric and strength of character,” Pelinka said about Ham during his introductory press conference on June 6.
He continued his effusive praise, “…it came through so powerfully to everybody in the coach’s committee when we did our interviews and we were able to land on coach Ham as our unanimous choice to recommend to our owner Jeanie Buss for her approval.”
As we all know, front office speak must always be taken with a grain of salt. The Lakers’ committee reportedly consisted of Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, Jesse Buss, and Joey Buss in addition to owner Jeanie Buss. Who knows if one or more of them actually desired Terry Stotts, Kenny Atkinson, or any other of the candidates more than they wanted Ham. But, to give Pelinka some credit, we usually hear a leak and/or report of a Lakers organization member’s disapproval of something when it exists, so maybe they were, in fact, all unified in their love of Ham.
Pelinka later indicated that the committee was looking for certain characteristics in the candidates with Ham exhibiting many of them. One of those characteristics — the ability to hold LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and the rest of the players on the roster accountable — was referenced many times by Ham himself in his press conference.
“The first thing we did, Jeanie and I formed a committee, a search committee to go out and get the candidates,” Pelinka said to Mike Bresnahan and Spectrum SportsNet. “And we identified the characteristics we were looking for. Darvin immediately stood out as someone that met so many of the qualities that we were looking for. His strong voice, a willingness to have difficult conversations with players and hold them accountable to playing hard.
“He made us all confident that he would call our players to play that way every time we were on the court. I think he’s got the muscles and big shoulders to support that, too.”
Ah, we couldn’t get through one article about Pelinka’s quotes without him saying something a tad bit weird. Hello, Ham’s “muscles and big shoulders.”
So, the Lakers’ front office got their guy, and he says he’ll keep the team’s superstars in line. However, it’s one thing to say that, and another to put those so-called “muscles” to use by getting James, Davis, and Westbrook all on the same page. Will Ham be able to deliver?
Only time will tell.