When Frank Vogel took the Lakers’ coaching job, he was given a three-year contract — eyebrow-raising short by NBA standards. After Vogel won a championship with the Lakers, he was given just a one-year contract extension (that’s when people around the league knew his days were numbered). When hired, the Lakers told Vogel he had to install Jason Kidd as his lead assistant, essentially putting his replacement — and a coach highly respected by players — at his right hand. On top of all that, Lakers’ front office voice Kurt Rambis was a regular part of Vogel’s coaching meetings, an unusual step around the league.
New Lakers’ coach Darvin Ham (the Lakers have not made the hiring official) will not have to deal with any of that, reports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter. First, he got a four-year deal, according to multiple reports.
According to the buzz in NBA coaching circles over the weekend, Ham has likewise been promised the autonomy to pick his coaching staff and is said to have received assurances that Lakers senior advisor Kurt Rambis will not be a regular presence in coaching meetings like he was with Vogel. If those promises come to fruition and Ham actually receives all that latitude, they will rank as significant concessions secured by a first-time NBA head coach.
Maybe the Lakers learned a lesson — to attract and retain top-flight coaches they need to give that person the autonomy to do the job their way. Players know how long a coach’s contract is for, they see how the organization treats the coach and take their clues from it. It undermined Vogel, even after he won a ring. It kept some top coaches from having an interest in the Lakers’ job.
Ham will get the chance to do things his way.
It’s a start. However, it will be moot how good a coach Ham is or isn’t if there are no significant roster upgrades this offseason. Run it back with aging role players around LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and maybe Russell Westbrook, and the results are not going to be much different than this season. The real work in the Lakers’ offseason is just starting.
Giving Ham autonomy is a good first step.