When the Los Angeles Lakers were in the market for a new head coach this past summer, the front office let every candidate know how much they valued a veteran coaching staff — so much so that they already had an assistant coach lined up for when they picked their new head coach. That assistant was Jason Kidd.
Kidd didn’t have much success during his time in Milwaukee or Brooklyn, but the Lakers’ brass knew he had a relationship with James from their time together at the 2008 Olympic games. In fact, their relationship is so strong that many felt Kidd was hired as an insurance plan if Vogel and James didn’t see eye-to-eye.
While that may have been true at the time, Lakers forward Jared Dudley told Sam Amick of The Athletic that there is no palpable tension between Vogel, Kidd or any of the assistant coaches and said that Kidd has been a positive for the team this season:
“Some people might be saying (Kidd) is gunning for his job, (but) I see a family approach. I see them laughing. I see Vogel laughing with Kidd and Lionel Hollins. You see how they all have their own role. …Obviously Vogel’s a big defensive guy, (so) you have (him) breaking down the opponents. Phil Handy (who is very popular among NBA stars and who took part in the last five Finals), going over certain personnel. (You have) Jason Kidd, because of familiarity with certain players. … When he speaks offense you’re more keen. You’d think that would be a little rocky trying to figure people out man, but he’s a player’s coach. He asks for opinions. He said ‘This is what I like to do, what are your guys’ views on it, and eventually he makes a decision.’
“I think that (Kidd) is more keen to listen (in this role compared to the Bucks). The first thing he ever told me was like, man, ‘Phil Handy’s really good.’ That was the first thing he even told me. …And that ended up being the truth, so yeah, he’s joking around more with players – come on, he’s a player. And he knows that for him to get back to his goal — I think that’s everyone, every assistant wants to be a head coach — you have to take steps to get back up there.”
Rajon Rondo also had high praise for the Lakers’ coaching staff, singling out Kidd and Phil Handy:
“The staff is unbelievable, and not just Frank. It’s the assistant coaches that he has, their style, the way he empowers them, the way they empower him. It’s a fun staff to be a part of. J-Kidd gets on my ass. Phil Handy gets on my ass. I love to be coached and to pick their brains. And I’m going to go back at them if I think it’s necessary or a need, but at the same time there’s still a respect factor, and a respect level that we have for one another which allows us to continue to get better and grow.”
The Lakers have come together pretty quickly for a team with an overhauled roster and coaching staff, and the experience of the players and coaches have been a big reason for that. The hope is that those same voices will help keep the team from falling apart when they inevitably hit a rough patch at some point in the 82-game regular season.
Ultimately we won’t know until they get there, but it sounds like the coaching staff has the respect of the locker room. That’s more than the previous coaching staff could say.
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