Sources tell Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic that Bucks assistant Darvin Ham has made the “strongest impression” on Lakers brass thus far in interviews, and appears to be the leading candidate for the head coaching job.
As we relayed earlier today, Ham, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, and former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts are reportedly finalists for the position.
Los Angeles’ leadership is looking for a coach “who can command respect and authority from the locker room” while maintaining a strong voice and presence in order to manage the differing personalities throughout team’s roster. Ham’s “no-nonsense style and ability to resonate with his players” has impressed the Lakers to this point, according to Charania and Amick.
They aren’t listed as finalists, but Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin haven’t been eliminated from consideration yet. However, former Warriors coach Mark Jackson is no longer a candidate, per The Athletic’s duo.
Here’s more on the Lakers’ coaching search, courtesy of Charania and Amick:
- Owner Jeanie Buss will meet the finalists during their in-person interviews, which will occur soon. She has not been involved in the process to this point.
- The team’s search committee is headed by VP of basketball operations and GM Rob Pelinka, and it will make the final decision on who’s hired. Buss plans to defer to the committee’s recommendation. Magic Johnson and Phil Jackson, who are reportedly advising Buss despite not having official roles, are not part of the search committee. LeBron James isn’t on it either — only Lakers officials are.
- After a disappointing season and lots of turmoil surrounding the franchise over the past few years, including the poorly executed firing of former head coach Frank Vogel, Buss “is determined to assuage any and all of the finalists’ concerns about the organization” as the team concludes its search, says Charania and Amick. She plans to deliver a message centered on providing the necessary resources and support for the Lakers to be successful going forward.
- The team is still operating as though Russell Westbrook will be on the roster next season, which is why the coaching candidates have been asked how they’d use him. Assuming the Lakers are unable to find a trade for Westbrook, which would undoubtedly be difficult given his enormous ($47MM) player option and declining play, releasing him isn’t considered a viable alternative, nor is having him away from the team, like the Rockets did with John Wall this past season, per Charania and Amick.
- However, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article that he remains skeptical Westbrook will be on the roster in 2022/23. Stein notes that while the team is reluctant to part with future first-round picks to grease the wheels on a Westbrook deal, creating a “fresh-start atmosphere” for next season will be very difficult if he’s still on the Lakers.