Lakers Sack Coach Darvin Ham After Two Seasons

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The Lakers terminated the contract of coach Darvin Ham on Friday after his two-season tenure. The team will now commence a search to find the ideal candidate capable of maximizing LeBron James’ final years in the league while striving to restore championship contention.

Ham, who had two years left on his contract, achieved a regular-season record of 90-74 (.549) and a postseason record of 9-12 (.429), including two play-in tournament victories, since his appointment in 2022, succeeding Frank Vogel. Additionally, Ham led the Lakers to victory in the inaugural in-season tournament held in Las Vegas in December.

The decision to relieve Ham of his duties came shortly after the Lakers’ elimination by the Nuggets for the second consecutive season, this time in a five-game first-round series, following last year’s conference finals sweep by Denver.

“We greatly appreciate Darvin Ham’s efforts on behalf of the Lakers and recognize the many accomplishments achieved over the past two seasons including last year’s remarkable run to the Western Conference finals,” Rob Pelinka, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager, said in a statement.

“We all want to thank Darvin for this dedication and positivity. While this was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action following a full review of the season. The organization will remain unwavering in its commitment to deliver championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans around the world.”

Subsequent to Ham’s dismissal, the Lakers also terminated the entire coaching staff, as reported by sources to ESPN. Among those affected was Phil Handy, who served as an assistant coach under both Ham and Frank Vogel in Los Angeles, and previously worked with LeBron James during his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Despite LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing the most combined games since joining forces in Los Angeles in 2018 (71 and 76 games respectively), the Lakers secured only the No. 7 seed in a fiercely contested Western Conference, leading to a matchup against the No. 2-seeded Nuggets.

Throughout the series, the Lakers squandered double-digit leads in all four losses, including a 20-point advantage in the second half of Game 2.

“It’s been a hell of a two years. … I’ll tell you that,” Ham said Monday after the Lakers were eliminated. “Sitting in this seat, it’s been a hell of a two years. A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize.”

Ham inherited a Lakers team reeling from a dismal previous season, finishing with a 33-49 record in 2021-22 and failing to reach the postseason. The franchise underwent significant roster changes, notably trading key role players from their 2020 title-winning team for Russell Westbrook.

The Lakers stumbled to a 2-10 start in Ham’s debut season, prompting a complete overhaul of the roster leading up to the trade deadline. Westbrook was traded, and acquisitions such as D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Rui Hachimura were made to complement established players like James, Davis, and Austin Reaves.

Despite these changes, the Lakers managed to secure the No. 7 seed through a play-in tournament victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, subsequently upsetting higher-seeded teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors before succumbing to the Nuggets.

In the current season, the Lakers faced a lackluster start with a 3-5 record, followed by a challenging stretch of 4-11 after winning the in-season tournament title, dropping them to No. 13 in the Western Conference standings by mid-January. However, a late-season resurgence, finishing with a 23-10 record from February to mid-April, propelled them to secure the No. 7 seed again through a play-in tournament victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

While the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the previous year’s playoffs with a 24-point combined margin of victory in four games, this season saw a five-game series, with the margin of victory totaling 22 points across the four wins for Denver.