Head coach candidates if Lakers fire Darvin Ham

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Through 34 games, the Lakers stand at 17-17, which has them in 9th in the Western Conference. In the offseason, LA prioritized adding depth and role players who could excel around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Despite having the talent on the roster around the healthy star duo, they sit at .500. Questionable lineups and rotations have led some fans and analysts to call for the Lakers to fire head coach Darvin Ham.

A mid-season firing of a coach can be tough, as the number of candidates isn’t as plentiful. Let’s break down the top head coaching candidates if the Lakers fire Darvin Ham.

Mike Budenholzer

Former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is a candidate for the Lakers. Budenholzer was fired by the Bucks this past offseason after a disappointing playoff run.

However, Budenholzer has plenty of experience and has proven to be a championship coach as he led Milwaukee to win the title in 2021. 

He also coached the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-2018, helping them eclipse a franchise record 60 wins in the 2014-15 season. Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year and would be an intriguing candidate for LA.

His experience with a career head coaching record of 484-317 (.604%) could help the Lakers turn the season around.

Phil Handy

If the Lakers opt for an internal candidate to rise up the staff, it should be Phil Handy. Handy is an experienced assistant coach and player development coach who is well-liked by players across the league.

Handy started his coaching career as a development coach for the Lakers from 2011-2013 before moving to the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant coach. 

Handy was a part of the coaching staff when the Cavaliers came back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals to win the championship in 2016. 

He then spent the 2018-19 season with the Toronto Raptors, who won the title. Handy then returned to LA, being an assistant on the coaching staff for the Lakers 2019-20 title, and has remained with the team since.

Handy has years of experience working with this team and would be the best internal candidate if the Lakers fire Ham.

Doc Rivers

Another candidate LA could consider is Doc Rivers. Rivers has extensive experience as a head coach in the NBA.

Rivers' first head coaching gig was with the Orlando Magic from 1999 to 2003. He earned the Coach of the Year award in 2000. 

Following his tenure with the Magic, Rivers became the head coach of the Boston Celtics and stayed in that role from 2004-2013. The highlight of his tenure with Boston was a championship in 2008 over LA. 

In 2013, the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Rivers via a trade with Boston. Rivers led the Clippers to a franchise-record 57 wins in his first regular season as their head coach.

Rivers stepped down as the Clippers head coach after a failed playoff run in the 2019-20 season. He then signed with the Philadelphia 76ers as their next head coach and served in that role from 2020-2023. 

Rivers has now returned to broadcasting games on ESPN. However, he could return as a head coach in the NBA. Rivers is listed as a top 15 head coach in NBA history according to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. His 1096-763 (.589%) record as a head coach would bring a plethora of experience.

A midseason coaching change can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. It has happened multiple times in NBA history, including the Lakers making a change from Paul Westhead to Pat Riley in the 1980s. A LeBron James team has also done it, as the Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt in 2015 for Tyronn Lue. 

While Darvin Ham has struggled, he could keep his job and work on improving. If he can tighten up their rotations and maximize the lineups and talent on the roster, he could lead this group far in the playoffs.

Ham helped this team turn around the season last year and make it to the Western Conference Finals. The players seem to get along with Ham, but the Lakers need consistency as their championship window is narrow with a 39-year-old LeBron.

This stretch in January with ten of the 15 games at home is crucial for LA. If the Lakers struggle, Rob Pelinka and the front office could look at these candidates to take over Ham’s job.

1 comment

  • MARK JACKSON !!!!!!!


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