Charlotte Hornets: Darvin Ham Profile

Jan 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham during the second quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham during the second quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Charlotte Hornets are continuing to search for their next head coach in the wake of dismissing former head coach James Borrego. Several names have been attached to the job, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that Kenny Atkinson, Darvin Ham, Sean Sweeney, and Mike D’Antoni are all interviewing for the position.

Further detail has been provided by NBA Insider Shams Charania, who has reported that Ham and D’Antoni are the current frontrunners for the job.

Ham presents an interesting coaching profile as a young, ascending candidate looking for his first opportunity as a head coach in the NBA. Ham has an extensive background both as a player and as a coach. The Saginaw, Michigan native played collegiately at Texas Tech before enjoying a professional career that spanned more than a decade and included winning a championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. His coaching career began in the NBA D-League, now known as the G League. Ham reached the NBA ranks as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 before spending five seasons as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks. He has spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks under head coach Mike Budenholzer.

Ham has an existing relationship with current Hornets General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who was the General Manager of the Lakers during Ham’s stint as an assistant with the team. Hornets fans looking for a good parallel to Ham’s potential head coaching success can look to current Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins as an example. Jenkins and Ham worked together as assistant coaches with the Atlanta Hawks from 2013-2018 and with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2018-2019 season. Now in his third year with the Grizzlies, Jenkins has led his team to the second round of the playoffs and is in the running for the NBA Coach of the Year Award.

Improvement on the defensive end of the court will be a major task for whoever becomes the next head coach for the Hornets. Ham has a solid defensive pedigree; in his first season with the Hawks, the team ranked 15th in defensive rating. The following three seasons, they ranked 5th, 2nd, and 4th, respectively. In his first two seasons with the Bucks, the team was 1st in Defensive Rating. Conversely, the Hornets never ranked higher than 16th during James Borrego’s tenure and were a bottom-nine defensive unit in three out of his four seasons.

While hiring a candidate with previous head coaching experience may be appealing, there are several recent examples throughout the league of first-time head coaches having success. In addition to the previously mentioned Taylor Jenkins, coaches such as Ime Udoka with the Boston Celtics, Chris Finch with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Willie Green with the New Orleans Pelicans have all coached their teams to the playoffs this season.

While there are no sure things when it comes to coaching searches, Darvin Ham possesses an intriguing skillset that could translate to success for the Charlotte Hornets.