New Lakers Head Coach Search: Terry Stotts, Kenny Atkinson & Darvin Ham Named Finalists
Terry Stotts Lakers
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have come close to selecting their new head coach, as Terry Stotts, Kenny Atkinson, and Darvin Ham have reportedly made the final rounds of interviews.

Initially, L.A. was believed to have anticipated interviewing between eight to 10 candidates. The interviewees spoke with vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, as well as Kurt Rambis and Jesse and Joey Buss over Zoom.

Early rumors suggested the Lakers targeted Quin Snyder, Nick Nurse and Doc Rivers for the job. Other reports claimed former Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson was also in the running.

Jackson is believed to have indeed met with the Lakers’ leadership, but Rivers remained with the Philadelphia 76ers while Snyder’s and Nurse’s names quickly stopped being mentioned in the context of the team’s head coaching search.

In the end, Stotts, Atkinson, and Ham are believed to have been invited for the last round of interviews, which will take place in person in Los Angeles. Let’s take a look at the three finalists and their coaching resumes.

Terry Stotts

Record as NBA head coach: 517-486 (51.5% win rate)
Experience: 13 years as head coach (Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers), 16 years as assistant (Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks)

The candidate with the longest resume.

Terry Stotts didn’t make it in the NBA as a player. After the Houston Rockets selected the Oklahoma alum with the 38th overall pick in 1980, he failed to make a single appearance for the team. Stotts continued his career abroad before he turned to coaching in 1990, becoming George Karl’s assistant with the CBA’s Albany Patroons.

In 1992, he joined Karl’s staff on the Seattle SuperSonics in his first NBA gig. But Stotts celebrated his biggest success two decades later when he helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA championship as an assistant coach. In 2012, he took over as Portland Trail Blazers head coach and made the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons with the team — including a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2018-19.

His Trail Blazers excelled on the offensive end, in big part thanks to the effort of the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum-led backcourt. But Portland often appeared to lack balance between offense and defense under Stotts, leading to frequent first-round exits in the playoffs.

Kenny Atkinson

Record as NBA head coach: 118-190 (38.3% win rate)
Experience: 4 years as head coach (Brooklyn Nets), 9 years as assistant (New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, L.A. Clippers, Golden State Warriors)

The candidate who aids player growth and has been mentored by several great NBA coaches.

Similar to Stotts, Kenny Atkinson never played in the NBA. After spending most of his 14-year career playing in Europe, he served as an assistant coach at Paris Basket Racing before joining Mike D’Antoni’s staff on the New York Knicks.

Atkinson reached the Eastern Conference Finals as Mike Budenholzer’s assistant with the Atlanta Hawks in 2014-15. Two years later, he got his first — and so far only — head coaching job, taking over at Brooklyn Nets. He improved the team’s record from 20-62 in his first season to 42-40 in 2018-19, which marked Brooklyn’s return to the playoffs after a three-year break.

Atkinson stepped down as head coach before the end of the next season amid the reportedly growing tensions between him and the Nets’ two new stars: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. He then worked as an assistant coach under Ty Lue on the L.A. Clippers and Steve Kerr on the Golden State Warriors.

Atkinson’s known to have a knack for developing players, and his Nets played an attractive, fast-paced basketball during his tenure.

Darvin Ham

Record as NBA head coach: 0-0
Experience: 11 years as assistant (Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks)

The candidate with a commanding voice the Lakers’ front office has been looking for and who’s reportedly made the strongest impression yet.

Darvin Ham has never been the main play-caller on an NBA team, but he’s been widely tipped to get his first head coaching gig soon. In his playing times, he was an explosive small forward, known for making powerful slam dunks. Ham won the 2004 NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons.

He is the only candidate with a connection to the Lakers after spending two years as Mike Brown’s assistant coach between 2011-2013. Since then, Ham’s worked for Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee, helping the Bucks win the 2020-21 title.

Ham is known for his energy and no-nonsense approach, fitting the criteria set for the new head coach by the Lakers’ front office — which has been looking for a leader with a commanding voice to take charge of the coaching staff.

Also, he’s reportedly who LeBron James wants for the job.

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