The Los Angeles Lakers' decision to tap Darvin Ham as the franchise's 28th head coach may end up being its most consequential hire in decades.

The 48-year-old will be tasked with overseeing the end of LeBron James' title window and ushering the team into a new era, converting a deeply flawed roster (no matter what happens this summer) coming off a rotten season back into a contender, and potentially navigating a fraught Russell Westbrook situation.

There's no guarantee the Lakers will have the (available) talent to stand out anytime soon amid an ascendant Western Conference. But, because of the brand's perpetual championship-or-bust expectations, Ham will be evaluated on an exceedingly challenging curve. His impressive resume carries lofty hype, as well.

The Ham hire itself is profoundly significant considering the state of the Lakers and the age of their best player. But, how the organization went about bringing him on board reflects a notable change from how business has gone down in recent years — and that may be the most important takeaway of all. Let's break it down.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/61Ar04k91qqxag5lQwOEe3?si=ed5d91133a624f9b

1) Contract

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The Lakers handed Ham a four-year deal. That's already a more enthusiastic vote of confidence than Frank Vogel received in 2019. Vogel was Plan C after Monty Williams and Ty Lue, and he accepted a below-market-value three-year contract. The Lakers never meaningfully invested in him as the steward of the ship, evidenced by the lame-duck extension he “earned” after winning the title.

Giving Ham a four-year contract instantly awards him leverage, leeway, and credibility within the organization.

2) Autonomy

Los Angeles is reportedly giving Ham considerable influence over his coaching staff. That, too, represents a dramatic shift in tides. The front office micromanaged and scrutinized the staff under Luke Walton. After that unsuccessful partnership, they disallowed Vogel to pick his own assistants, despite his track record.

The Lakers and Ham want to compile a staff with head coaching experience. They should seek an offensive Xs and Os guru, which was sorely missed in 2021-22 (Terry Stotts said he isn't interested in a lead assistant role, but he's still in the running for the Charlotte Hornets HC job) — even though Ham reportedly “blew away” the Lakers with his tactical knowledge.

The Lakers haven't shaken up their staff yet — the current assistants are running pre-draft workouts and meeting with Ham throughout this week — but changes are expected.

If possible, Los Angeles should pony up the bills to hang onto Phil Handy. The developmental maestro is being pursued by the Brooklyn Nets and could be understandably perturbed by not getting an interview for the top gig.

Ham has also “received assurances” that senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis won't “be a regular presence in coaching meetings like he was with Vogel,” per Marc Stein.

3) First-time head coach

The Lakers were tempted to lean towards an experienced head coach. That's natural: Established skippers tend to command respect, have likely had success coaching stars, and are historically the preferences of veteran ballclubs with championship aspirations. The Lakers were linked to Doc Rivers, Nick Nurse, Quin Snyder, Kenny Atkinson, Mark Jackson, and Stotts.

Instead of a retread, the Lakers went with a fresh voice. Smartly, they opted for an ex-pro — an in-vogue practice in an increasingly player-empowered NBA.

“He’s going to be honest as a coach of the Lakers, which is what I think you need in the NBA today — somebody that’s going to be honest but know how to be honest without actually just tearing you down,” Ham's ex-teammate and recent rookie head coach Chauncey Billups told the Los Angeles Times. “What can you say? He’s won as a player. He’s won as a coach. I mean, this dude is more than qualified for the task at hand.”

Ham is far from raw. He played for eight seasons (1996-2005) and won a title with the Detroit Pistons. He's paid his dues on the coaching front since 2008 and won a ring with the Milwaukee Bucks. As a developmental assistant with the Lakers (2011-13), he bonded with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. He's a descendant of the Popovich/Budenholzer lineage — as are the two coaches in the NBA Finals, both ex-players who thrived in their first year running the show. He coached in the G-League, as did Snyder, Nurse, Chris Finch, and Taylor Jenkins (all descendants of the Pop/Bud tree, too.)

Ham has been lauded for his work ethic, charisma, ability to hold stars accountable and developmental prowess — especially with bigs on the defensive end (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez). This is all good news for Anthony Davis.

4) Competency

The methodical, relatively drama-free nature of the Lakers' coaching search indicates encouraging growth and discipline.

Rob Pelinka's first coaching search as GM was a debacle. Vogel ended up delivering banner No. 17, but the Lakers were embarrassed by the fallout with Lue — due to salary and staff disagreements — and Williams' preference for a division rival. Post-bubble, they insulted Vogel with the fake extension and enabled constant leaks about his job status, culminating in his firing via Woj 33 seconds after the season ended. Bad looks, all around.

The Lakers conducted this coaching search deliberately without fireworks or controversy. They didn't let it drag on, nor did they engage in a cat and mouse game through the media with under-contract coaches (Rivers/Snyder/Nurse). They interviewed six qualified candidates, gauged the interest of a few others, and promptly made a call after Ham crushed his final-round interview.

On and off the court, learning from mistakes and oversights will be fundamental to resuscitating the franchise. Ham has plenty to prove, but credit the Lakers for altering their process.