The news around the Frank Vogel’s coaching staff has been light since word came out that the team received permission to speak to Warriors’ assistant Ron Adams to join the staff. Bill Oram has since reported that Adams will be staying in Golden State with Steve Kerr, which means an opening remains on Vogel’s staff.
Reports came Sunday, however, that Vogel has filled that slot with former Cavalier and Raptors assistant coach Phil Handy:
As I mentioned, Handy was an assistant on both the Cavs and the Raptors but also has a history with the Lakers. In 2011 Handy was brought to the team by Mike Brown as a player development coach. Handy then went to Cleveland when Brown returned and stayed on under Ty Lue. When Lue departed, Handy joined Nick Nurse’ staff in Toronto this past season. All told, then (and as Spears noted in his report), Handy was part of 5 consecutive Finals teams (4 in Cleveland, 1 in Toronto) and won 2 championships (2016 and 2019).
Handy’s skill in working with players of all types, but especially superstars, runs deep. When in Los Angeles he worked closely with Kobe and Pau and when he went to Cleveland he was instrumental in Kyrie Irving’s development and then in working with LeBron when he returned to the Cavs for his 2nd tour. His time with Kawhi in Toronto led folks around the league to believe he might be headed to the Clippers now that Leonard is heading there too.
Instead, though, Handy will be reunited with LeBron and bring some of his player development skill and assistant coach chops to the Lakers bench. I would expect Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma to be chief beneficiaries of the former, but the for the entire roster and coach Vogel to benefit from the former. Handy’s touch with players, after all, doesn’t just extend to skill development but also to motivation as a key member of a staff.
Handy is widely credited with helping to turn the 2016 Finals by lighting into the team after they’d no-showed early in the series. Some of those details were reported in a wonderful feature on Handy by Marc Spears at The Undefeated:
The Cavaliers appeared to have heeded Handy’s words as they came ready to play in Game 3, jumping to a 9-0 lead. After the concerned Warriors called a timeout, James was unusually passionate and excited as the Quicken Loans Arena crowd roared with renewed hope. The Cavaliers went on to dominate the Warriors 120-90 to trim their Finals series deficit to 2-1 and snap a seven-game losing streak against Golden State.
While big games by James, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith had a lot to do with it, Handy got some credit for lighting the Cavaliers’ flame.
“The speech he gave after Game 2 really hit home for all of us,” Irving said after Thursday’s practice at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. “It was a man-to-man speech that needed to be said, that we all understood in order to, kind of, will ourselves to understand that we still have a chance in this series. Golden State took care of home court. But that speech really hit home for all of us.”
Said Lue: “What he said was right on and the guys accepted that.”
We’ll see if Handy will get the same opportunities to be a voice of influence on Vogel’s staff — especially when joining an experienced staff that already includes former head coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins while working for a coach he does not have previous experience with. That said, he brings what no other coach on the staff does, a previous coaching relationship with LeBron and being a coach of import on a championship winning team.
Overall, then, I’m really happy with this hire and with the direction Vogel’s staff has taken.