Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after 2 seasons, sources tell ESPN

Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after 2 seasons, sources tell ESPN
Lakers fire coach Darvin Ham after 2 seasons, sources tell ESPN

THE ANGELS — The Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham on Friday after two seasons manning the sidelines, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Lakers will now open a job search in hopes of finding the right person to maximize what figures to be the final chapter of LeBron James’ storied career while returning the team to championship contention.

Ham, who had two years remaining on his contract, went 90-74 (.549) during the regular season and 11-12 (.478) in the postseason — including two play-in tournament wins — since being hired to replace Frank Vogel in 2022. He also guided the Lakers to the inaugural in-season title tournament in Las Vegas in December.

The decision came just days after the Lakers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets for the second straight season, this time in five games in the first round after being swept by Denver in the conference finals a year ago.

Despite James (71 games) and Anthony Davis (76) playing their most combined games since becoming teammates in LA in 2018, the Lakers only earned the No. 7 seed in a crowded Western Conference field, setting up the showdown with the No. 2 -seeded Nuggets.

The Lakers failed to protect a double-digit lead in all four of their losses in the series, including a 20-point second-half lead in Game 2.

“It’s been a hell of a two years… I’ll tell you that,” Ham said Monday after LA was eliminated. “Sitting in this seat, it’s been a hell of a two years. A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize.”

Ham inherited a Lakers team coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in the history of the franchise, when it went 33-49 in 2021-22 and failed to qualify for the postseason after it traded several role players that were vital to LA’s 2020 title for Russell Westbrook.

LA started off 2-10 in Ham’s first season and the roster was completely overhauled in a series of moves leading up to the trade deadline, parting ways with Westbrook and re-tooling with D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura to complement holdovers James, Davis and Austin Reaves.

That team beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament to earn the No. 7 seed and went on to upset the No. 2-seeded Memphis Grizzlies and No. 6-seeded Golden State Warriors before falling to the top-seeded Nuggets as part of Denver’s path to the first championship in franchise history.

This season, the Lakers had an underwhelming start once again by going 3-5 and then stumbled through a 4-11 stretch following the in-season tournament title, dropping them to No. 13 in the West in mid-January. LA rallied to finish the season 23-10 — the fifth-best record in the league from Feb. 1 through mid-April — and beat the New Orleans Pelicans in the play-in tournament to earn the No. 7 seed again.

Last year, the Nuggets swept the Lakers and outscored them by 24 points in their four wins; This time around it took Denver five games and the combined margin of victory was 22 points in the four wins.

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