Those of you who’ve followed me for awhile probably know that I published a long-form feature in May 2021 on then-Jazz coach Quin Snyder — a detailed account of the jobs he had in between leaving Missouri and being hired by Utah, and how they shaped him.
I consider it one of the best things I’ve ever written and was thrilled when it was voted one of the top-10 long features of the year in the annual Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest. And yet, I sometimes think about how it’s imperfect. It took me months to put together on account of the many, many interviews I did for it, but a few I wasn’t able to pull off stick with me — Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford, Danny Ferry, Elton Brand, but most especially Darvin Ham.
Ham played for Snyder with the Austin Toros, was a fellow assistant on the Lakers, and then again with the Hawks. They’re close enough that Ham (now the Lakers’ head coach) told reporters in September that Snyder is acting as his “pro bono coaching consultant.” I actually had an interview arranged with Ham at one point, but he had a conflict and had to reschedule, and we never were able to connect.
Anyway, fast forward a while later, and I’m chatting with Snyder, and somehow Ham comes up in the conversation, when Snyder suddenly insists I ask Ham a specific question if I ever get to interview him.
So this Monday evening, with the Lakers in Salt Lake City to face the Jazz, I finally got my chance to make good during Ham’s pregame availability: “Coach, this is an exceedingly random question, but Quin Snyder told me if I ever got a chance to talk to you, I needed to ask you about the time you stole his van for a month.”
I’ve rarely seen a grown man laugh as hard as Ham did right then.
Years before, he’d revealed that Snyder had let him borrow his 2002 Volkswagen Westfalia Eurovan — which functioned as a constant throughpoint in my 2021 article — but this was a new wrinkle to that old story.
“I kind of kept it so long he had to borrow it back!” Ham finally said. “… I can’t believe he told you that!”
Then he told his side of the story.
“I worked in L.A. as an assistant coach, and my car was in the shop, so I let [my wife] have [the other car] ‘cause she was dropping off the kids at school, and she was teaching at the time. So I said, ‘Quin, you’re not using that van — let me keep the van,’” Ham said. “So I went and got it detailed, put a new battery in it — see, he didn’t tell you all of that! I got the wheels together and all of that, fixed it up — I kind of felt like it was mine at that point because of all the work I put into it. But yeah, he ended up having to borrow it back. I miss that van, too! It was one of those nice old-school Volkswagen Scooby-Doo vans. It was all white, had a nice big couch in it. … Man, I miss that van! I literally fell in love with that van, man!”
He laughed some more as he recalled Snyder sheepishly asking if he could get his own vehicle back: “It was his at first, until I got ahold of it! He was like, ‘You think I can borrow the van, Darvin?’ ‘Oh yeah — it’s yours, right?’”
Asked a few moments later if he knew what became of the van (Snyder told me he sold it in 2012, when he left the Lakers to go to Russia as an assistant with CSKA Moscow), Ham spoke wistfully of it.
“I have no idea. I would love to find out,” he said. “If it needs to be rescued, I would be more than willing.”
Better late than never
Talen Horton-Tucker was rattling off the various teammates who’ve been in his ear this season, helping him try to take the next steps in his career, when he included Jordan Clarkson. So, naturally, when we spoke to J.C. later, we asked him about THT, and one of his keys for the young guard’s success was, “Just making the easy play sometimes.”
As it turns out, “making the easy play” is not always that easy for some players. Asked when he felt he got good at doing it, Clarkson made an honest admission: “Shoot, probably this year, honestly.”
He added: “I mean, I’ve been a gun. All I’ve been focused on is getting [shots] up there, and then figuring it out after that. I had no other assignment or anything else to do; just come in and shoot it. Pass it? It wasn’t to make a play, it was just to get off [the ball]. That was it. But now I’m in a different situation, a different role.”