The Los Angeles Lakers frantically have been looking for a new head coach and after an extensive search, three candidates are still in the running: Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts, and Kenny Atkinson. With the Lakers narrowing their search to a final three, it quickly ended any speculation that Doc Rivers would become the next head coach of the Lakers.
Although Rivers is not in contention for the Lakers gig, the current head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers could still depart the City of Brotherly Love. Then again, he could stay and try to run it back with Joel Embiid and James Harden for a full season.
The Lakers seek someone to replace former head coach replace Frank Vogel, who became the scapegoat for the Lakers’ woes this past season when they failed to qualify for the postseason. If the Lakers want to recycle an ex-head coach and continue the coaching carousel of white head coaches, then they’ll hire a former NBA coach like Stotts or Atkinson. If the Lakers want to give a black assistant coach his first big break, then they’ll hire Ham as their next head coach.
NBA Twitter joked that the final round of interviews is just LeBron James deciding who will become his next puppet head coach. So, will LeBron pick Ham, Stotts, or Atkinson?
The Lakers are +2200 odds to win the 2023 NBA championship, but they’re the twelfth team on DraftKings’ future board.
Sources: Finalists for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job: Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts. Next stage of interviews are expected to take place in-person in Los Angeles.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 20, 2022
Gamble on Ham
The Boston Celtics took a big risk when they hired Ime Udoka as their head coach. When Danny Ainge vacated the general manager’s position, head coach Brad Stevens pivoted to the front office and took over as the new GM. One of Stevens’ first moves was to hire Udoka. The gamble paid off because Udoka transformed the Celtics into the best defensive teams in the NBA this season. At the same time, the Celtics are tied 1-1 with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Udoka is just three wins away from securing a trip to the NBA Finals, and the rookie head coach is only seven victories away from adding another championship banner to the extensive collection already hanging from the rafters at TD Garden.
The Lakers could follow the Celtics and hire a rising star of an assistant coach to become their next head coach. Ham is considered one of the top assistant coaches in the NBA. It’s only a matter of time before Ham becomes a head coach, but will the Lakers give him a break he rightfully deserves?
Ham most recently won a title with the Milwaukee Bucks last season as an assistant under Mike Budenholzer. We think Ham has an edge to become the next Lakers head coach over Stotts and Atkinson because he’s a former NBA player. The fact that Ham went to battle on the hardwood might sit better with a veteran like LeBron James. It’s a very similar situation to when the Cleveland Cavs fired David Blatt and hired Ty Lue, who had just retired a few seasons before joining the Cavs as a rookie head coach. Lue finally got the Cavs over the hump and helped the city of Cleveland end their championship drought.
Recycle: Stotts or Atkinson?
Stotts has a proven track record with the Portland Trail Blazers with eight-straight playoff appearances. He had them play competitive despite the fact the front office did not aggressively go after top notch free agents to help out Damian Lillard. If the Lakers hie Stotts, they at least hire a veteran head coach who is familiar with the Western Conference.
Stotts also had stints as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks. With over a decade of head coaching under his belt, Stotts is the most experienced out of the final three candidates amassing a career record of 517-486.
Kenny Atkinson spent nearly four seasons as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, where he went 118-190 at the end of the 2010s. He’s currently an assistant coach under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are still in the hunt for the 2022 NBA championship as one of the final four teams.
Kerr’s staff at the Warriors has already been raided by the Sacramento Kings, who hired assistant coach Mike Brown. If the Lakers hire Atkinson, they’ll add someone who’s very familiar with the Pacific Division.