Report: Lakers coach Darvin Ham keeps 1 but drops 3 assistants from 2021 staff

·3 min read

Newly-appointed Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham continued to re-shape the team's coaching staff Tuesday after reportedly keeping one assistant from this past season and not keeping three assistants.

Lakers assistant Phil Handy will remain on the staff, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, while assistants David Fizdale, Mike Penberthy and John Lucas III were all informed they would be let go, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin.

This news comes a day after former NBA player and University of Memphis assistant Rasheed Wallace reportedly agreed to join Ham's staff. It's unclear what the status is of the rest of the staff, but Wojnarowski added that Ham's discussions with potential assistant candidates will continue for "weeks."

Why this matters for Lakers

These coaching decisions are an important development for Ham's legacy in Los Angeles.

Firstly, it signals a reversal of the team's desire to control the coaching staff. The Lakers lost out on hiring Tyron Lue in 2019 because they reportedly wanted to pick Lue's staff. Lue spurned the Lakers for the Los Angeles Clippers' top job instead and the Lakers went on to hire Frank Vogel, who they fired in April before they hired Ham in late May.

All of the reporting around the staff changes suggests Ham is the one making the decisions – not the Lakers front office. The Athletic's Bill Oram also reported Hamm will have autonomy over the staff.

Secondly, it's an admission by the team of the staff's failures from this past season, which saw a struggling Lakers squad finish 11th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 record and miss the postseason for the first time since the 2018-2019 season. Fizdale and Lucas III were both hired in 2021, while Penberthy joined the team with Vogel in 2019.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is putting his own mark on the team. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is putting his own mark on the team. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ham making early waves

Staffing news notwithstanding, Ham's presence can already be felt on the Lakers. He's received the stamp of approval from LeBron James – not that the Lakers would have even fired him without his blessing – and Ham is already looking at how to fix the Russell Westbrook problem from this past season.

"Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen and there is still a ton left in that tank. I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off. I’m gonna approach him like I do every player I’ve ever encountered," Ham said during his introductory press conference Monday. "We’re going to talk about our running habits with the ball, without the ball, and again, the team. The rhythm of the team and trying to establish a rhythm with LeBron, Russ, AD, and again, share the load.

Ham also comes from a background of winning. He coached Mike Budenholzer with the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-2018 and then with him with Milwaukee Bucks from 2018-2022. Those stops included postseason appearances in all but one season, an Eastern Conference finals appearance in 2015 for the Hawks and an NBA championship in 2021 with the Bucks.

Now, Ham will be tasked with fixing the Lakers squad that couldn't stay out of its own way this past season.

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