Darvin Ham cut his teeth as an assistant coach in the professional ranks for over a decade. Now he deserves his opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA.
Ham is currently the lead assistant for Mike Budenholzer and the Milwaukee Bucks. During his time in Milwaukee, the Bucks have ascended into one of the best teams in the league.
Becoming a head coach in professional sports is one of the toughest tasks that one can achieve. Being an African American head coach is three times as hard. In a league where 90 percent of its players are of Black descent, the same cannot be said for head coaching positions.
According to The Shadow League, From 2001-2014, the NBA averaged 11 Black head coaches per season, which was as diverse as the league has ever been. On opening night in 2012, half of the NBA’s 30 head coaches were people of color, including 14 Black coaches, an all-time high.
Currently, there are seven African American coaches which is the lowest total in nearly twenty years. Just like many positions in sports or even in the corporate world, African Americans must work twice as hard and they must exceed the qualifications to get the job.
The Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans have coaching vacancies, and both are promising jobs. New Orleans is a pressure-laden job due to their talented roster and because of that, it is unlikely that they will hire a rookie head coach. In Chicago’s case, they need a breath of fresh air after being in basketball hell with now-fired coach Jim Boylen. Chicago has a talented roster and holds the fourth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The Bulls have a chance to resurface as a playoff team in a few years if they make the right hire.
Here is why Ham is the man for the job.
Darvin Ham knows what it takes to win. Ham won an NBA Championship in 2004 as a member of the Detroit Pistons. Ham was a role player on a team that featured four potential Hall of Famers Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace. On a team lauded for its defense and team-first mentality, he meshed well with the group. On paper, he did not have a huge role on the team, but there is a reason why Larry Brown stated that every team needs a Darvin Ham on their roster.
Ham learned from great basketball minds
Ham had the luxury of playing for Brown, Bernie Bickerstaff, and George Karl. He was also fortunate to coach with Phil Jackson on the Los Angeles Lakers. Unlike many in his position, he has been around multiple coaching greats. This does not always translate into instant success as seen with Avery Johnson, Derek Fisher, and current Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton, but soaking up knowledge from great coaches holds some weight.
His familiarity with the Eastern Conference
Knowing the lay of the land is very important when trying to achieve success. Ham was fortunate to win an Eastern Conference crown as a player and he has been on the staff for two perennial playoff teams in Atlanta and Milwaukee. During his tenures with the Hawks and Bucks, he has been on three teams that have had the best record in the East.
The Bulls have had 23 coaches in their history and Bill Cartwright is the only African American coach to retain a full-time coaching position. Pete Myers coached three games in an interim role, but was not offered the job on a permanent basis. The Bulls hired Marc Eversley as their general manager, making him the first African American GM in team history. There are few African American GM/head coach combinations in the league, but that will change if the Bulls hire Ham.
Players will respect him
Ham was not a star by any means in the NBA, but he is highly respected by his peers. He went undrafted but carved out a professional career that lasted over ten years. Ham's blue-collar mantra has translated in his role as an assistant coach and it will suit him well as a head coach. Players respect coaches who can speak their language as a player, and Ham fits that mold.
The Bulls need a massive culture change
The Bulls have been on a downward spiral since hiring Fred Hoiberg in June 2015 and it continued until Jim Boylen was recently fired. Players such as Wendell Carter, Jr., Coby White and Lauri Markkanen have All-Star potential and Zach LaVine is a star in the making. All that is missing is a few quality veterans and a coach that can help maximize their abilities.
Darvin Ham can be that coach.