Was Darvin Ham Lakers' Best Choice for Head Coach Amid Juwan Howard Rumors?

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJune 6, 2022

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 01: Assistant Coach Darvin Ham of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on against the LA Clippers during the second half at Fiserv Forum on April 01, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Darvin Ham had never previously been a head coach. Now, the 48-year-old is taking over that role for the Los Angeles Lakers and inheriting a roster that includes LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook as the team looks to rebound from a hugely disappointing 2021-22 season.

It wasn't always clear that Ham was going to get the job. There had been rumors circulating about potential names as soon as the Lakers fired Frank Vogel in April. And it seems Los Angeles had its sights on some strong candidates other than Ham.

NBA reporter Marc Stein noted that he had heard among league coaching circles that Los Angeles' "preferred candidate" among coaches who were already under contract was Juwan Howard, who is the head coach at the University of Michigan. Stein reported that Howard was ranked ahead of Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and Quin Snyder, who resigned as Utah Jazz head coach on Sunday.

Howard could have been an interesting fit with the Lakers. The 49-year-old, who played 19 seasons in the NBA, has spent the past three years with the Wolverines. He's had success, too, leading them to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament in 2021 and the Sweet 16 of the tourney earlier this year.

From 2013-19, Howard was an assistant for the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra. But is Howard ready to be an NBA head coach? It may be for the best that the Lakers didn't end up with Howard, as he may benefit from a few more seasons in the college ranks before making that jump.

Stein reported that Howard didn't want to interview with Los Angeles and chose to stay at Michigan, noting that the Lakers' job "was his if he wanted it."

Rivers and Snyder have each had success in the NBA, and the former may have had success in Los Angeles if he had opted to leave Philadelphia. Rivers knows how to coach star players, as he led the Boston Celtics to an NBA title in 2008 when they had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

In a scenario in which he ends up with the Lakers, the 60-year-old Rivers would have had no trouble getting respect from the team's stars. So that could have been Los Angeles' best option if it could have gotten him.

That's not to say Ham won't have success with the Lakers, though. He knows the franchise, having served as an assistant for Los Angeles from 2011-13. Since then, he's served in assistant roles for the Atlanta Hawks (2013-18) and Milwaukee Bucks (2018-22).

So it was time for Ham to get his first opportunity as an NBA head coach. Especially after he helped the Bucks win a championship in 2021.

Was Ham the best choice to be the Lakers' new head coach? It seems like it, given their other options and the circumstances surrounding some of their potential targets like Rivers, who is already the head coach of a playoff team.

Don't be surprised if Ham gets Los Angeles back to the playoffs at the end of the 2022-23 season, as fresh leadership could be what the team needs to get back on course. There's talent on the roster, so that isn't an issue, especially if the Lakers can surround their stars with the right complementary players.