Handy is close with Kyrie Irving. The Athletic first reported that Handy was one of the assistant coaches on Brooklyn’s radar.
Handy’s ties to Irving are well-chronicled, but he is also connected to Nash, working with him with the Lakers during Nash’s first season in Los Angeles and Handy’s second in the NBA. While Nash wasn’t able to get on the court as much as anyone would have liked that year, it would seem Handy’s approach made an impression on him (as it has basically anywhere he’s went).
At the time of the initial report of the Nets’ interest, Frank Vogel said that the Lakers grant permission for assistant coaches to interview elsewhere on a “case-by-case” basis.
“If any of our assistants have an opportunity to have an advancement opportunity, then we typically would grant permission. But it would be case-by-case, and I don’t know anything about the situation you mentioned,” Vogel said a few weeks ago when questioned about the Nets’ reported interest in Handy. He also made it clear that the Lakers’ value the veteran assistant.
“Phil Handy brings great experience to our team. He’s been in the Finals the last five years, and obviously has great experience and background working with LeBron, does a great job with our whole group in player development, and has been an integral part of our success this year.”
Handy has now made it six in a row after the Lakers got to the Finals it this year, and while that success is obviously not solely attributable to an assistant coach, it is representative of the types of value winning organizations place on Handy’s contributions, and that he’s at least been able to help and contribute on high-caliber staffs under Tyronn Lue, Nick Nurse and now Vogel.
He also clearly has a gift for connecting with star players, from Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Irving, among others. It’s because Handy has show he has talent for helping players both young and established add new components to their games at every step of his basketball journey, from paying his own way on road trips to help Danny Green as he tried to rehabilitate his career in the G League to working with him on the Raptors and Lakers as they head to the NBA Finals.
I can’t even find the words to describe this #journey for me personally. #6straight @nba #finals doesn’t even seem real. @lakers far from done but believe me I’m going to celebrate tonight. #lakernation #lakers #lakeshow it’s been a long time coming. #ringchasing pic.twitter.com/2REDCkDqqe— Phil Handy (@94feetofgame) September 27, 2020
With how much Vogel clearly appreciates his contributions, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers letting Handy get away unless he really wants to leave. It’s also not clear that the spot on the Nets’ bench would be the type of advancement — Handy is already a bench coach with the Lakers after years as a behind-the-bench player development assistant — that the Lakers would allow him to leave for, although the organization may defer if it’s a spot Handy prefers.
Still, if it’s a matter of money, it’s difficult to think the Lakers wouldn’t just pay up to keep Handy around, but we’ll see. After the Finals, addressing this will be one of the first issues immediately facing the Lakers.