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Los Angeles Lakers fire head coach Darvin Ham after team's 1st-round playoff exit

Ham held the position for two seasons and had two more left on his contract when he was dismissed.
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series.
Posted at 2:54 PM, May 03, 2024

The Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham on Friday, days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round.

"While this was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action following a full review of the season," the team said in a post on Instagram. "This organization will remain unwavering in its commitment to deliver championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans around the world."

Ham had led the Lakers for two seasons when he was dismissed with a 90-74 record and two more years on his contract. He came to the team as a first-time head coach in 2022 to replace Frank Vogel who was fired after three seasons, including one in which the Lakers snagged their 17th NBA title.

Only four days before Ham was canned, all eyes were on the coach, and his star player LeBron James, after the Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets for a second straight postseason. Questions swirled about the future of Ham at the helm and whether 39-year-old James would return for a 22nd NBA season.

"My mind is all over the place right now," Ham said after the game when asked how he would sum up his run with the Lakers so far. "Maybe at some point I'll give you an answer. It's been a hell of a two years, I'll tell you that. Ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize."

Ham got his start in the NBA as a player, winning a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 before starting to coach an NBA minor league team in 2008. He then became an NBA assistant coach for the Lakers in 2011. Ham joined the Atlanta Hawks in 2013 and followed coach Mike Budenholzer to the Milwaukee Bucks five years later, helping them win a title in 2021.

When he was hired as head coach in 2022, the Lakers were in a tough spot after going 33-49 in the 2021-22 season and failing to qualify for the postseason. His first season saw the Lakers win two of their first 12 games before making a huge roster overhaul, ultimately bringing them to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the Nuggets in a four-game sweep.

With only four more regular season wins than the season before, Ham’s last run was considered disappointing as well, despite James and Anthony Davis playing more games in a season since 2017-2018. But the Lakers still rallied to become the No. 7 seed, as they did the season before, but lost out to the Nuggets again in the end — this time, after five games.

Now the team is on the hunt for its fourth coach since James signed his four-year contract in 2018, and its eighth since Phil Jackson — who helped the team win five titles and is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time — left in 2011. And this coach could be James’ last, though reports say he’s expected to return.