Lakers Coaching Search: Front Office Priorities; how Darvin Ham made an impression

The Lakers look set to make a coaching decision soon, with Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts the finalists. for the position which became vacant when Frank Vogel was fired at the end of the season. to finish. But as the final round of interviews are set, sources tell Athleticism that Ham seems to have made the strongest impression to date.

Now, the last step in the process will determine who gets the job. Among the latter group, Stotts is known for his strong X’s and O’s, making the playoffs in eight of nine seasons at Portland, while Atkinson has been described as quick-witted and a tireless worker.

When it comes to Lakers preferences, sources say team officials have prioritized a coach who can command respect and authority from the locker room and has a strong enough presence and voice to handle the challenges. different roles and relationships within the list. These characteristics bode well for Ham’s candidacy. Throughout assistant coaching stops with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, Ham has been known for his no-nonsense style and ability to resonate with his players – attributes that also stood out in his communication with the Lakers until now, sources said.

Ham, who played eight NBA seasons from 1996 to 2008, is the only former NBA player among the three finalists. Even before reaching the NBA, however, Ham’s reputation as a force of nature was cemented when he broke the backboard while diving in his 1996 NCAA Tournament with Texas Tech. Ham, Stotts and Atkinson are also in consideration for the Charlotte Hornets vacancy. Ham is also a strong candidate for the Hornets, sources say.

The three finalists will soon meet top Lakers officials — including owner Jeanie Buss — in Los Angeles for the next step in person, sources said. So far Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, director of basketball affairs Kurt Rambis, vice president of research and development Joey Buss and assistant general manager Jesse Buss led the first stage of interviews with the coaches.

The Lakers interviewed a total of six candidates, including Bucks assistant Charles Lee, Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson. Lee and Griffin were not ruled out as options in the process, sources said.

“In terms of what this team needs right now, obviously we think that with superstars in our team, we want a strong voice that can inspire players to play at the highest level of competition every night.” , Pelinka said of coaching. research April 11. “I think that’s going to be one of the resounding qualities that we’re looking for, in terms of holding everyone from the best player on our team down to the 15th man, to some degree of accountability, and that’s going to be one of the many characteristics that stand out. today.

Yet after all the recent talk of influential voices in Laker Land, with Jeanie Buss known to lean on Phil Jackson and Magic Johnson as she attempts to course-correct a 2021-22 season that has been such a debacle, it’s fair to wonder who makes the decision here. A source with direct knowledge of the process shared the following information on this front with Athleticism :

• Pelinka leads the committee that will ultimately make the decision. Jeanie Buss, who has not yet been involved in the process, is not part of the committee and intends to rely on its recommendation. Phil Jackson and Johnson are also not on the committee.

They’re just Lakers officials — none of whom are named LeBron James. While we know that James would have been excited about the prospect of Mark Jackson getting the green light here, that obviously won’t be the case.

For the sake of context, it’s worth hitting the rewind button on the last Lakers coaching search three years ago. After narrowing their roster down to Monty Williams, Ty Lue, and Juwan Howard, they ultimately settled on Frank Vogel for a variety of well-known reasons. In these latest interviews, Pelinka has been joined by Jeanie Buss, Kurt and Linda Rambis, COO Tim Harris, Joey Buss and Jesse Buss.

• Given the many unflattering storylines that have surrounded the Lakers in recent years, from Magic’s messy April 2019 exit to Jerry West considering them a “shitshow” in December 2020 to the dismissal of Vogel “They did not tell me shit” which was so poorly executed, Jeanie Buss is determined to allay any concerns the finalists have about the organization in this final stage. His message, the source said, would focus on an organizational commitment to providing both the resources and internal support needed to inspire team success.

• The Russell Westbrook factor continues to weigh heavily here. The candidates were asked to discuss how they would use a roster that includes Westbrook, with Lakers officials operating on the belief that he will be part of their program next season. Westbrook has a player option worth $47 million for the 2022-23 campaign.

As for the prospect of Westbrook being waived or sent home (a la John Wall from Houston last season) if he’s not traded, those aren’t viable options, and all indications are that he will play. With that in mind, the Lakers are focused on hiring a coach who can navigate these types of sensitive situations.

– AthleticismBill Oram contributed to this report.

(Photo: Jim Dedmon/USA Today)

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