Ham on Brown
The NBA playing career of new Lakers assistant Darvin Ham began in the fall of 1996, when the undrafted rookie free agent arrived at Denver Nuggets training camp, his mind focused solely on making the roster.
Along with fellow rookie Jeff McInnis, Ham showed up the day after Labor Day, and who was in the gym but current Lakers head coach Mike Brown. In his first year in the NBA as a video coordinator, Brown immediately planted a seed in Ham that he'd cultivate years later.
“Mike was hungry, a very hard worker, and he really encouraged Jeff and myself that being tired was nothing but a misconception,” Ham recalls. “We’d get up at 6 a.m., run sprints and lift weights, do some on-court work with Mike, and then the veterans would show up.”
The grueling days paid off for the rookies, as both made coach Bernie Bickerstaff’s roster heading into the season, with Brown leaving a lasting impression.
“I just appreciated Mike’s work ethic, because he’d never cut any corners,” Ham said. “That is a guy who made it off what he knew, not who he knew. Because of that, the who he knew got a lot bigger and better, but it was all because he worked his butt off. He made it himself.”
Traded midseason to Indiana, Ham signed with Washington the next season, reuniting with Bickerstaff – fired by Denver after 13 games – and Brown, but it wasn’t until last summer that Ham learned he might have a chance to join Brown once again, this time as a fellow coach.
A mutual friend named Bryant Moore – currently an assistant coach at Pepperdine who played college hoops with Ham at Texas Tech – told Ham that Brown was trying to track him down for an interview. When they connected, Brown and Ham had a “great” conversation reflecting on their old times together in the NBA. It was an easy decision for Brown.“The thing that excites me is that there’s a history of trust between myself and Darvin,” he said. “Starting when I was in Denver … I saw first hand his daily work ethic, and his will and want to grind and get better. I witnessed it first hand, and then year after year from afar, and through the time we’ve been in the league together, our friendship has grown.”
“I’m going to work my butt off for him,” concluded Ham. “No matter if I have to sleep at the office and work double time, I don’t want that guy to be unsuccessful (in Los Angeles). I really want to be a part of him getting his first championship as a head coach.”