LAS VEGAS — The Lakers are still trying to solve the mixture of stripes, plaids and Hawaiian prints that is their roster. There are major moves that are still to be made.
At least they hope said key NBA transactions will come to pass.
But the feeling among NBA way-insiders is that L.A. has taken a giant step in the right direction with the head coaching hire of Darvin Ham.
The eight-year veteran as a player and 12-year NBA assistant coach has earned a very strong reputation among those in the latter profession — and it’s not just the warmed over cliché of “he does a great job.” This is sincere stuff from people who know Ham and what he’s up against with the Lakers.
It was reported here at Heavy.com during the season that beleaguered former coach Frank Vogel had to deal with such things as director of basketball affairs and senior adviser Kurt Rambis, listed below GM Rob Pelinka on the Lakers’ organizational chart, criticizing him in front of players and other team personnel. The players liked Vogel, but the hopelessness of the season had players texting from the dressing room at halftime when other business was being conducted.
“That’s not going to fly with Darvin,” one coach told Heavy. “That’s why I’m saying that if he sticks to his principles, guys like Rambis aren’t going to be a factor. And now that’s pretty public, and they’ve actually made a statement already that that wasn’t going to be the case. What he did to Frank was ridiculous.”
‘You Have to Work Around LeBron’
Another league exec shook his head when the Laker situation was mentioned. But he spoke up for Ham.
“You have to work around LeBron obviously, but I think he’s going to be pretty direct with those guys,” he said. “And I don’t know whether Rasheed Wallace is a good or bad hire (as an assistant coach), but he’s pretty much a straight shooter, too. Darvin has a good feel for that, so I’ve got to trust him with that hire. I have to believe that’s going to work.”
The first coach quoted here noted his dealings with Ham over the years.
“He’s a really grounded guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of old school in him, but he understands how the game has changed over the years and what you need to do to deal with it and succeed — that’s from how the game is played to just the players themselves and what they’re dealing with.
“I think Darvin will do it his way, his own way. He’s an interesting guy. He wasn’t really actively looking for a head job for a long time. He enjoyed what he was doing — and this was even before he got to Milwaukee and was part of them winning. He told me, ‘I like my job. I like working with guys. If I never get a head coaching job, it’ll be fine. I’ve been blessed.’
“I think he was being honest with himself. For a guy like that, when he gets his chance, I don’t think every day he’s going to be thinking about hanging on to his job. And that’s how you’ve got to coach in this league.
“That’s how I’ve always tried to operate,” he added. “Hasn’t always gotten me ahead, but I’ve still got a great job and I can sleep well at night. Darvin’s a guy who’s always treated people well, and there’s a value in that.”
‘I Have Confidence in Darvin as a Person’
The gist of those remarks was relayed to another prominent NBA coach, who replied with total agreement and amplified the point.
“There’s not even enough time to deal with all the things you have to,” he said. “If you’re worried about your job and how what you do is going to look — not whether it’s going to be effective, but how it’s going to look — then you’re on your way out right there.
“I’ve seen it too many times in too many places. And I’m talking about head coaches that have been around with different teams and have good reputations. You can see it happening from a mile away. I really don’t think Darvin’s going to fall into that trap. I’m not sure what’s possible and what’s not with how things are going with that team. They have to make some big decisions with that roster, and they have to admit they’ve made some pretty bad mistakes. But I have confidence in Darvin as a person — not just a basketball person, but a person.”