Darvin Ham Named Head Coach of NBA D-League's Thunderbirds
Ham will be the fourth head coach in the team's six-year history, following in the footsteps of John Coffino, Jeff Ruland and Michael Cooper. FanHouse was the first to report Ham's hiring Tuesday morning.
Ham, 37, has served as the Thunderbirds' top assistant over the past two seasons while learning the ins and outs of the business from then-head coach Coffino. Prior to joining Coffino's coaching staff, Ham played as an unofficial 'player-coach' for the Thunderbirds under Ruland during the 2007-2008 season, his last year as a professional player, averaging 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
As a head coach, Ham should be able to provide the Thunderbirds' players with someone that they can relate to -- much like the majority of D-League players, Ham went undrafted after playing four years at Texas Tech where he made headlines for shattering a backboard during an NCAA Tournament game in 1996.
It's often mentioned among D-League players that they connect better with coaches that have been where they want to eventually be, but there are very few coaches -- aside from Idaho's recently appointed Randy Livingston -- that have the experience of clawing to be on an NBA roster like Ham endured during his 11 seasons of playing professional basketball.
Thunderbirds forward Shane Edwards recently told FanHouse that Ham's coaching helped him progress into enough of a prospect this summer to earn an invite to play for the Denver Nuggets' entry in the NBA Summer League.
"(Ham) knows the game very well because he's played it for so long that he has an excellent understanding of the game from a player's perspective and was able to teach me how to do the little things," Edwards said. "I also worked with Darvin to develop my post skills. He gave me stuff I could work with on the block and off the block, and I think my post skills got a lot better. I really learned a lot from him."
After earning a free-agent contract with the Denver Nuggets as rookie in the fall of 1996, Ham ended up making spot appearances playing for the Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons while also plying his craft overseas in between NBA contracts. The biggest accomplishment of Ham's NBA career was earning an NBA championship ring while playing with the Pistons during the 2003-04 season.
Ham's overseas stops included Spain during the 1998-99 season, the Philippines during the 2005-06 season and Puerto Rico during the 2006 summer before finally ending up in the D-League.
Since then, Ham has embraced the role as a coach in the D-League as he was looking to drop his knowledge on his fellow teammates even as he was playing alongside them.
"There's a very thin line between guys here and some of those in the NBA," Ham told the Albuquerque Tribune in 2007. "I can show them the little things coaches are looking for up there -- things like boxing out, rebounding, crashing the boards, setting good screens. Unless you're a lights-out shooter, you have to show you can contribute with an all-around game."
The Thunderbirds will play at the Santa Ana Center in Rio Rancho, N.M., this season after playing in Albuquerque since the 2005-2006 season. The team will be affiliated with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets as well as the Orlando Magic for the upcoming season after being affiliated with the Hornets and Dallas Mavericks last season. The expansion Frisco Legends, owned by Dallas general manager Donnie Nelson, will be single-affiliated with the Mavericks.