If you search the internet you can find plenty of pictures like this. The greats in the game like Durant, James, Kawji all post-workout, whether it was pick up games or skill training, and you can usually name most of the guys in it off the top of your head. But if you look closely you’ll see one guy in a lot of the pictures, one guy who may not look familiar, as the second guy in from the right. Well, get used to the face and the name, because Phil Handy is going to be on a lot of teams’ prospective coaching list.
But who is Phil Handy? The 48-year-old, now Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach has been on the bench as a coach for 5 NBA finals, 4 with the Cavaliers, and last season with the Toronto Raptors. His teams have won 2 championships with him on the bench. Originally hired by Mike Brown to be a player development coach, Brown brought him to Cleaveland with him to be an assistant, where of course Handy coached a young Lebron James
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Kyrie Irving, Pascal Siakam, and Kevin Love are just a few of the players that have worked with Handy, and he has gained all their respect and more. Handy was one of the first phone calls Nick Nurse made when assembling his bench team. Handy is beloved for his ability to teach things like ball handling, balance shooting, and footwork to even the greatest players on the planet and is respected by the GOATs.
But would Handy make a good NBA head coach? That is really still to be determined. NBA head coaches have a lot more on their plates than assistants and need to do more than just skills training, but what Handy brings to the table may just be enough for a team to take a chance on him. Everywhere Phil has gone players have succeeded, guys like Fred Van Fleet and Pascal Siakam are prime examples of players who thrived under Handy. And players respect and want to play for Handy, which really became clear in the 2016 Finals when the Cavs were down 3-1, Handy stepped in.
“We looked like deer in headlights.” Handy told The Undefeated “I was like, Man, T-Lue, I’m not trying to step on your toes, but I got something to say man, ‘I didn’t go at nobody, directly. I was talking to all of them.taken from Silver Screen Roll (1)
Handy told the Cavs he took their play and the Warriors behaviour perosally and that once the team returned home to Cleveland, they had “better be ready to play, because that was some [expletive]”.”taken from Silver Screen and Roll (1)
Imagine an assistant coach having the awareness and command the type of respect to not only speak up over the head coach, but tell the likes of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love that they were being punked and they had “better be ready to play”, and those superstars not only listening but taking it to heart and coming back to win in a fashion that no team has ever done before. Now imagine him telling Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons that they are messing up and it’s time to get it together? Think they still have the road record they do this season? Intensity, respect, and basketball tangibles are three huge factors that Handy brings to the table that would make him an excellent head coach.
“The number one thing was detail,” Tony says “Phil put a first-to-fourth-quarter game plan together and then had an overtime plan to go with it. It was always a progression. It wasn’t a team workout, it was something that he thought about. He knew my strengths and weaknesses. When I stepped on the court, I knew he had a plan.”Tony Delk after training with Handy in Phoenix. Taken from closeup360.com (2)
Could Handy come in and take the 76ers to that next step? I don’t know, but I am damn sure he can get the best out of his players, and a guy like Handy may be just what Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid need to take that next step towards greatness. Handy, who has a close professional relationship with Kyrie Irving, maybe the front-runner for the Nets job, making him the next 76ers coach a little bit of dream. But don’t discount the Handy – Lebron connection with Ben Simmons, and it is worth noting that Simmons’ current trainer Kevin Johnson learned from Handy. Phil Handy is looking to make his 6th straight finals appearance as a bench coach, but after this season comes to a close, he should be a high priority for teams looking for a new head coach. If the 76ers do move on from Brett Brown, Handy should be at the top of their list.