The Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after just 2 seasons in charge (2024)

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers fired coach Darvin Ham on Friday after just two seasons in charge.

The Lakers announced on social media that they were dismissing Ham four days after their season ended with a first-round playoff loss to Denver in five games.

Ham led Los Angeles to the Western Conference finals less than a year ago in his first season as an NBA head coach. He had replaced Frank Vogel, who was fired by the Lakers exactly 18 months after winning the franchise’s 17th championship in 2020.

With little time left to capitalize on the concurrent presence of Anthony Davis and 39-year-old LeBron James — who hasn’t decided whether to return for his 22nd NBA season — the Lakers are resetting their coaching staff once again instead of blaming general manager Rob Pelinka for his roster construction.

Ham presided over a disappointing year for the Lakers, who went 47-35 in the regular season and won the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament. The Lakers then beat New Orleans in a play-in game to move up to the seventh seed in the highly competitive Western Conference — but that meant they had to face Denver, which swept them out of the playoffs last season.

Los Angeles led the defending champion Nuggets for long stretches of their first-round series, but Nikola Jokic and his teammates eventually rolled into the second round with a series of comeback wins.

The Lakers’ failure stung because James and Davis were largely healthy all year long, with both superstars playing more games than they had managed in an NBA season since 2017-18 — 76 for Davis and 71 for James, the leading scorer in NBA history. D’Angelo Russell also had a strong regular season, setting the franchise record for 3-pointers.

That health and success only translated into a four-win improvement in the standings from last season, and Ham received much of the blame from fans and observers for his game management, slow tactical adjustments and a reluctance to change his player rotations and starting lineups, even when things weren’t working.

The Lakers fell into a hole they couldn’t escape when they went 3-10 during the holiday period immediately after the In-Season Tournament finale. Ham was widely criticized for his lineups and rotations during that poor stretch — among other decisions, he curiously benched Russell and Austin Reaves while giving extensive playing time to Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish.

That slump eventually prevented the Lakers from landing a top-6 seed in the West even though they finished the regular season on an impressive 28-14 surge.

The players publicly backed Ham, but signs of frustration were clear. After the Lakers blew a 20-point lead and lost to Denver in Game 2 last month, Davis said the Lakers “have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor,” a comment widely interpreted as a shot at Ham’s coaching competence.

The Lakers only went 43-39 in their first season under Ham in 2022-23, but they capitalized on more favorable playoff matchups. After beating Minnesota in a play-in game, they won playoff series against Memphis and Golden State to reach the conference finals, where they were swept by Denver.

James, Davis and the Lakers have failed to win a playoff round in three of their four seasons since winning the 2020 championship in the Florida bubble.

Ham had two years left on his contract with the Lakers, who will be hiring their fourth head coach since James arrived in 2018. The new coach will be the Lakers’ eighth in 14 seasons since Hall of Famer Phil Jackson’s departure in 2011.

Ham had an eight-year playing career in the NBA as an athletic forward, winning a championship with Detroit in 2004. He got his first NBA assistant coaching job with the Lakers in 2011, and he was Mike Budenholzer’s assistant in Atlanta and Milwaukee for nine seasons — winning a second championship ring with the Bucks in 2021 — before returning to the Lakers as their head coach.

James has a $51.4 million player option for next season, and his decision hangs over every offseason move for the Lakers, who internally expect him to return.

Pelinka then must determine whether he can make the long-anticipated move for a third superstar through trades, or whether he believes the assertions by Rui Hachimura and other role players that the Lakers can become a contender with more continuity.

Russell has an $18.7 million player option after the sharpshooting guard excelled in the regular season and flopped in the playoffs, infamously going scoreless in the Lakers’ Game 3 loss to Denver. After Los Angeles was knocked out of the playoffs on Monday, the point guard said he has “a little leverage. I’ll try to take advantage of it.”



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The Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after just 2 seasons in charge (2024)


The Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after just 2 seasons in charge? ›

LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers fired coach Darvin Ham on Friday after two seasons, and the team now will open a job search in hopes of finding the right person to maximize what figures to be the final chapter of LeBron James' storied career while returning to championship contention.

Why did the Lakers fire their coach? ›

The Lakers' firing of coach Darvin Ham marks the storied franchise's third coaching change in the last six years, as Ham's “in-game adjustments helped widen the disconnect caused by some of the lineup decisions that players questioned,” according to Dan Woike of the L.A. TIMES.

How many years has Darvin Ham coached the Lakers? ›

The Lakers dismissed coach Darvin Ham after two seasons, the team announced today. Ham was 90-74 in that span with two playoff berths, a run to the 2023 Western Conference Finals and a championship in the inaugural In-Season Tournament.

What happened to the Lakers coach in the 80s? ›

McKinney was named the Los Angeles Lakers' coach in 1979, but he went on leave after 14 games after suffering serious head injuries in a bicycle accident that left him in a coma for three days. The Lakers, led by Paul Westhead, went on to win the NBA title, and he retained the job.

Who was the coach of the Lakers in 1999? ›

On Jun 11, 1999, the team would bring in Phil Jackson. Jackson had led the Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s and was hired to take an underperforming team to the next level. And Jackson would do that, and more. In the 1999-00 season, Jackson would lead the Lakers to the best record in the NBA.

What happened to Lakers coach in 79? ›

A bike accident in 1979 not only left Los Angeles Lakers' head coach Jack McKinney with a severe head injury but also set in motion a series of events that would transform the storied NBA franchise.

Who could be the Lakers' next coach? ›

The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to a deal to hire JJ Redick as the franchise's next coach, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, ending a drawn-out search for one of the NBA's premier jobs.

Does Darvin Ham still get paid? ›

The Lakers under Ham made it to the Western Conference finals in his debut season with the team in 2022-23. Ham, for his part, will get his paychecks from the Lakers for the foreseeable future even if his team facilities badge is denied access. Ham was fired with two full years left on his contract.

Why was Ham fired? ›

That health and success only translated into a four-win improvement in the standings from last season, and Ham received much of the blame from fans and observers for his game management, slow tactical adjustments and a reluctance to change his player rotations and starting lineups, even when things weren't working.

Does Darvin Ham have a ring? ›

Darvin Ham won 1 championship in his career.

Who was the best Lakers coach? ›

Many of the best L.A. Lakers coaches once played for the team themselves. Who are the best Lakers coaches ever? Phil Jackson has won more titles than any other coach in NBA history, including five championships with the L.A. Lakers. His “zen” approach to basketball has made him a legend in Lakers history.

Who was the coach when Magic Johnson played for the Lakers? ›

With rookie guard Magic Johnson and longtime star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers won the 1980 NBA Finals in Westhead's first year as coach, defeating Philadelphia in six games for the first title in their Showtime era.

Who currently owns the Lakers? ›

Jeanie Buss

What year did Phil Jackson take over the Lakers? ›

Regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, Jackson was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, leading them to six NBA championships. He then coached the Los Angeles Lakers from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2011; the team won five league titles under his leadership.

How many head coaches did Kobe have? ›

Kobe Bryant logged more than 1,500 games with the Lakers in his 20 seasons and he played for eight head coaches —some for only a few months, one for more than a decade. The Times asked each of them to offer their thoughts on Bryant and his impact on the NBA.

Who is the Lakers legendary head coach? ›

Phil Jackson is the franchise's all-time leader for the most regular-season games coached (902), most playoff games coached (181), most regular-season game wins (610), and most playoff wins (118).

Why did Magic Johnson coach the Lakers? ›

Johnson returned to the NBA as coach for the Lakers near the end of the 1993–94 NBA season, replacing Randy Pfund, and Bill Bertka, who served as an interim coach for two games. Johnson, who took the job at the urging of owner Jerry Buss, admitted "I've always had the desire (to coach) in the back of my mind."

What happened to Lakers coach Jack? ›

McKinney died on September 25, 2018, at a hospice in Bonita Springs, Florida, at the age of 83.

Why did Pat Riley coach the Lakers? ›

Los Angeles Lakers (1979–1990) Riley returned to the NBA in 1977 as a broadcaster for the Lakers. In November 1979, after the team's head coach, Jack McKinney, was injured in a near-fatal bicycle accident, assistant coach Paul Westhead took over the team's head coaching duties and hired Riley as an assistant coach.

Did Lakers coach quit? ›

The Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham on Friday after two seasons with the team and two playoff exits at the hands of the defending champion Denver Nuggets.


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