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The Los Angeles Lakers continue searching for a new head coach after Frank Vogel was dismissed last April, with finalists for his replacement narrowed down to Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham, former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson.
Vogel’s dismissal stemmed from a disappointing season after they were eliminated from play-in tournament contention. The Lakers suffered from injuries to star players LeBron James and Anthony Davis coupled with challenging roster construction, including limited shooting and athleticism. Since then, rumors started circulating about the next coach, with three names thrown in as the finalists.
Darvin Ham has been working under Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer for over nine years and has served as a Bucks assistant since 2018. Ham has been considered a top head-coaching candidate among league assistants, interviewing for several jobs since 2020.
Terry Stotts coached the Trail Blazers from 2012 to 2021. Although he was dismissed, Stotts managed to reach the playoffs in his last eight consecutive seasons, making two trips to the Western Conference semifinals and a berth in the conference finals in 2019. The coach is also known for his offensive creativity and man-management with his star players.
Kenny Atkinson built a reputation as a developmental coach, leading the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 to 2020 before joining the Clippers in 2021 and then the Warriors this season.
The best candidate for the Lakers had been Juvan Howard, coach for his alma mater, the University of Michigan. He had previously played with LeBron in Miami Heat between 2010 and 2012 and the Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka during their college days at Michigan, completing the “Fab Five.” However, Howard declined the offer despite his credentials and instead elected to remain at Michigan, coaching his two sons next season.
Although sources say the Lakers never made a formal offer, his candidacy would have progressed quickly had Howard expressed his interest in the job. The University of Michigan coach previously interviewed for the Los Angeles job in 2019 before taking on his current role. Howard was also a prospect for the Boston Celtics but declined the offer.
NBA analysts think that Darvin Ham would make the better choice among the three finalists, having worked with the Lakers as an assistant coach before. He and Terry Stotts also have championship experience, but Kenny Atkinson could prove to be a dark horse with the Warriors heading into the finals.