When teams win championships, it’s not just their free agents they have to worry about departing as they look to construct a roster that might be able to repeat. These title winners also often suffer a proverbial brain drain as members of their coaching staffs get offered other opportunities elsewhere. In that respect the Lakers — and assistant coaches Phil Handy and Jason Kidd — are no different than past champions.
Handy was linked to the Brooklyn Nets by at least two separate reports during L.A.’s run to the title, and now there is a third connecting him to that job. Kidd was similarly connected to nearly every head coaching job open this year, with the New Orleans Pelicans reportedly considering him “a prime candidate” to replace the fired Alvin Gentry.
Now, two new reports from The Athletic are linking Handy and Kidd to those respective job openings again, and it’s seeming more and more possible that they might be gone at some point this offseason:
Coaching possibilities:— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) October 12, 2020
• Clippers could make a decision this week with Mike Brown as a strong possibility.
• Jason Kidd is a candidate for the Pelicans job.
• Mike D’Antoni is still a candidate for Pacers job. David Joerger’s interview wasn’t impressive.
Mike D’Antoni and Phil Handy are both potential candidates to join Steve Nash’s coaching staff in Brooklyn, according to a source.— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) October 14, 2020
Kidd getting a head coaching job seems like a toss-up at this point — simply because of how hard those jobs are to get — and if the way he has learned to not attempt coups anymore doesn’t sway another team to hand him the reins, it seems likely he’ll be back with the Lakers next year, given that they’ve already provided him a big role and made him the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA. His title may not have been “Lead Assistant” or “Associate Head Coach” because Vogel believes in all of his bench coaches having equal input, but his function essentially was.
Handy is a different matter. He’s incredibly close to Nets star Kyrie Irving, who he coached as an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two were also both very tight with Kobe Bryant, a connection they bonded over, to the point that Handy has admitted Irving was the first person he talked to (and cried with) when he heard Bryant had passed. Bonds like that can’t be discounted when discussing this stuff, even if Handy is obviously also close with members of the Lakers as well.
Handy additionally worked with Nash during his first stint with the Lakers, and given how frequently he’s been linked by name to this specific opening with the Nets — rare for assistant coaches jumping to another assistant job — it would honestly be shocking if he didn’t take it, especially if Brooklyn is offering more money or opportunity.
Frank Vogel kept things fairly close to the vest in terms of which assistant coaches did what on his staff, saying that everyone contributed everywhere. But while Handy may not have been strictly a player development coach this year, his handiwork was on full display as Anthony Davis made strides in the postseason while other Lakers made meaningful little improvements in their fundamentals and counters. Kidd has showed a knack for coaching defense in the past and was one of the best point guards in NBA history, so it’s not hard to see his imprint on this team’s success at making adjustments after film sessions, too, in addition to his role as a locker room leader.
So while the Lakers would undoubtedly feel either departure were they to happen, this is something almost every championship coaching staff has to deal with to some degree. When you win, everyone wants a piece of that. The Lakers should do everything they can to convince both coaches to stay, but Vogel and Pelinka already assembled an incredibly strong group of coaches in just one offseason. There is reason to have faith they could do so again, if necessary.
We’ll see if it will be over the next several weeks. For now, just keep letting Handy know you want him to stay in purple and gold. It certainly can’t hurt.