Darvin Ham is out as Lakers Coach; Will John Calipari be His Replacement?

Darvin Ham

So, it took longer than I thought, but Darvin Ham is out as Lakers Coach. Now the question is who will be his replacement? Ham was brought in with being a veteran NBA player and assistant coach. He lasted two years as the Lakers Coach coming behind Frank Vogel who coached the team for three years. Lots of rumors on who it might be. 

Having a good relationship with Lebron James and to a lesser extent Anthony Davis seems to be almost as important as the coaching pedigree….that’s why Arkansas head coach, John Calipari isn’t necessarily a name you should discount based off his Nets record from like a gazillion years ago. We’ll go through the list of Lakers coaches first, and some of the possibilities for the next Lakers coach for you. 

List of LA Lakers Coaches

So, we just went with the list of LA Lakers coaches after Phil. Lakers fans have had one NBA Championship since we got spoiled with Phil, Kobe, Shaq, etc. That was 2020 with Coach Vogel, LeBron, and AD. Now the challenge for the next coach is to deliver at least a decent run in the 2025 NBA Playoffs now that the Lakers are out of the 2024 NBA Playoffs. If not win the entire thing. You can check out the coach(es), records, and playoff appearances, etc. 

YearsNameWinsLossesWin %ChampionshipPlayoffsTenure (Years)
2022-2024Darvin Ham90740.594022
2020-2022Frank Vogel127980.564123
2017-2019Luke Walton981480.398003
2015-2016Byron Scott381260.232002
2014Mike D’Antoni27550.329001
2013Mike Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff, Mike D’Antoni45370.549011
2012Mike Brown41250.621011
La Lakers Coaches and Records since 2012

What is Darvin Ham’s Contract with the Lakers? 

Lakers Announcement of firing Coach Ham

Coach Ham was hired in May 2022 and signed a four year contract. He was an assistant with Mike Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff, and Mike D’Antoni from 2011-2013 before. His contract is for approximately $5 million a season. For firing without cause, the Lakers will assume the remainder of the contract. Unknown if he’s hired by another team how that would impact LA paying him if at all.  

What Perceived Qualities does the Next Lakers Coach Need? 

This is pretty subjective, but we can speculate. Many times, when looking to the next coach, owners / GM’s can get fixated on focusing only on where the predecessor was weak. If we were to do that in this situation, then some of the areas noted in the press include Better optimizing the rotation and lineups (earlier in the season). Improved timeout and challenge management, public accountability when mucking up in-game decisions (or lack of), and of course gaining and maintaining the respect of LeBron, AD, and the rest of the locker room. 

Who are the Likely Candidates for the Next Lakers Head Coach? 

So, when you listen to ESPN, TNT, pick a sports show or Website, there are several names that come up as early options. Kenny Atkinson (current Warriors assistant and former head coach of the Nets), Mike Budenholzer (former Hawks and Bucks coach), JJ Redick (former NBA player, current ESPN analyst who hosts a podcast with LeBron), Charles Lee (Celtics assistant coach),and LA Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. 

Tyronn Lue’s contract with the Clippers is up. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Lue has previously coached LeBron at Cleveland winning the NBA Title in 2016. They lost in the 2017 and 2017 Finals. He has time in LA, and is experienced with coaching some of the biggest NBA personalities to include Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Kevin Love. He was on the wrong-end of the injury bug you could argue with Leonard being out of the deciding games of the Mavs series, but he is strong where Ham is perceived weak. 

What is John Calipari’s Contract at Arkansas? 

So, Coach Cal just left Kentucky for Arkansas. He’s making between $7.5-8 million a year in the new job with a NIL budget of $5 million per year. That is with incentives. His base is approximately $7 million. Reports are that he did not have to pay Kentucky anything to leave for another position from his 2019 contract. So, even though he’s making a tad less than at Kentucky, he is still the second-highest paid coach in college basketball. Money would not necessarily be the reason he would consider leaving already for the Lakers. 

List of Highest Paid College Basketball Coaches

Please note that Coach Pope’s average salary is reported to be $5.5 million over the five-year contract. For next season, it is $5 million.

CoachAnnual salarySchool
Bill Self$9.6 millionKansas
John Calipari$7 millionArkansas
Tom Izzo$6.2 millionMichigan State
Bruce Pearl$5.7 millionAuburn
Rick Barnes$5.7 millionTennessee
Scott Drew$5.1 millionBaylor
Dan Hurley$5 millionUConn
Mark Pope$5 million (avg 5.5 million over the contract)Kentucky
Brad Underwood$4.7 millionIllinois
Kelvin Sampson$4.6 millionHouston
Nate Oats$4.5 millionAlabama
2024 Highest Paid College Basketball Coaches

Is Coach Calipari a Serious Option for the Lakers? 

This is where we get into the LeBron effect. He and Calipari first established a relationship when Cal recruited him out of High School. James would of course go pro instead. Over the years, they have kept in touch. Cal famously turned down the head coaching job at Cleveland to stick with his UK team that would go 38-1. 

James would go on to win the NBA Championship under Coach Lue. Now, James is set to become a free agent again (for the last time?) if he does not exercise his player option for the 2024-25 season for $51 million and change. So, he has leverage with LA on the head coach selection. 

I think until the disastrous 2021 UK season, Cal was rumored to the NBA about every year though. He was in the Lakers rumors back in 2014 too with his ties with Kobe. So, the question will be who does James want and if that’s the deal breaker for him coming back? Calipari is definitely an option, but everything right now is speculation. We’ll keep you posted. Until then, enjoy the rest of the NBA Playoffs

LeBron James visiting Coach Cal at Kentucky (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins Timeframe)

For those who aren’t Kentucky fans, or just not aware of the Coach Cal connection, here’s a video of one of LeBron’s visits to Kentucky. Just to show you the access, familiarity, and such with Cal and the players over the years. 

Will Lewis

Have been covering sports of all types for more than 18 years. March Madness is my favorite time of year before we hit the NBA and NHL playoffs. Will is a lifelong Kentucky Wildcats fan and rooted for the Bengals way back when Joe Montana dashed our hopes and dreams. Now a Padres fan as well. He covers all sports here at Sports Brackets.

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