Two New Candidates Emerge in Lakers' Search to Replace Darvin Ham

Lakers will look at Mike Budenholzer, Kenny Atkinson in coaching search.
Apr 7, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer reacts in the
Apr 7, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer reacts in the / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Lakers officially parted ways with head coach Darvin Ham on Friday, and an "extensive" coaching search is set to begin. While Ty Lue and JJ Redick were known as potential targets before Ham was even got the axe, we now know of two more names added to the list.

A report from Jovan Buha and Shams Charania at The Athletic names former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and former Brooklyn Nets head man Kenny Atkinson on the shortlist.

Budenholzer led the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA championship in 2021 but was fired two seasons later after failing to reach those heights again. In five seasons with Milwaukee, Budenholzer went 271-120 (.693) and led the Bucks to five consecutive Central Division titles. He had mixed playoff success though, as they only reached the conference finals twice, and bowed out before that point three times. He was dismissed following a first round exit in 2023.

Before his time in Milwaukee, Budenholzer was head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for five seasons, posting a record of 213-197 (.520). He took them to the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

Budenholzer has won a championship and has taken his teams to the postseason in nine of his 10 seasons as a head coach. He has twice been named NBA Coach of the Year (2015 and 2019) and won four championships as an assistant under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. The 54-year-old has a proven track record of success, but his postseason decision-making has long been an issue.

Atkinson has been an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors for the past three seasons, after spending the 2020-21 campaign as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers. His only head coaching experience came with the Brooklyn Nets from 2016 to 2020 and he didn't put up great results while working with a depleted roster.

The Nets went 118-190 (.383) in three-plus seasons under Atkinson. They made the postseason in 2019 with a 42-40 record but were bounced from the opening round of the playoffs in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers. He stepped down as head coaching late in the 2019-20 season. Atkinson actually accepted a deal to become head coach of the Charlotte Hornets in 2022 after helping the Warriors to an NBA title. He ultimately backed out and returned to the Warriors.

A lot of eyes will be on the Lakers' coaching search. The end of LeBron James' career is rapidly approaching. If the franchise wants to get him a final shot at a championship, it will have to nail this hire.

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Ryan Phillips


Ryan Phillips is a Senior Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Ryan has worked in digital media since 2009, spending eight years at The Big Lead before joining the SI team in 2024. He also co-hosts The Assembly Call Podcast about Indiana Hoosiers basketball and previously worked at Bleacher Report. Ryan is a proud San Diego native and a graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school.