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Lakers to hire Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as coach

The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to hire Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their next coach. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley, File)

Eyeing a return to the playoffs after a disastrous campaign that led to the firing of Frank Vogel, the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to hire Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their next coach, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.

Ham, 48, was one of three finalists for the job, along with former Portland Trail Blazers Coach Terry Stotts and Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson. ESPN.com first reported the hire, noting Ham will receive a four-year contract.

Before landing his first lead job, Ham spent more than two decades in professional basketball, playing for six teams during an eight-year NBA career that spanned from 1996 to 2005 after going undrafted out of Texas Tech. Upon his retirement, Ham, who also played professionally in Spain and the Philippines, served as an assistant coach for the Lakers, the Atlanta Hawks and the Bucks. Ham was a member of the Detroit Pistons when they won the 2004 title and was an assistant when the Bucks won the 2021 title.

By hiring Ham, the Lakers will join a recent surge of franchises hiring former NBA players as coaches. Other former players include Ime Udoka (Boston Celtics), Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Willie Green (New Orleans Pelicans) and Chauncey Billups (Portland Trail Blazers), who were all hired before this season. Ham also becomes the NBA’s 15th Black coach, a marked increase from September 2020, when there were only four.

Ham has been viewed as a strong coaching candidate for several years, and his selection was welcomed by Lakers star LeBron James, who wrote on Twitter that he was “so damn EXCITED!”

Ham inherits a team that dealt with injuries and fit issues while posting a 33-49 record and finishing 11th in the Western Conference under Vogel, who was dismissed just 18 months after leading the Lakers to the 2020 title in the bubble.

James, who turned 37 in December, appeared in just 56 games, while all-star forward Anthony Davis missed more than half the season.

With limited cap flexibility to improve their roster around James and Davis, the Lakers must decide whether to trade Russell Westbrook, who struggled in his first season in Los Angeles. If Westbrook returns, Ham’s chief test will be finding a way to incorporate him into an offense that ranked 22nd out of 30 teams.

Ham becomes the Lakers’ sixth full-time coach in the past 10 years, joining Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Byron Scott, Luke Walton and Vogel. Los Angeles has made the playoffs just twice in the past nine years after missing the postseason just twice between 1977 and 2013.

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