The Los Angeles Lakers lost former assistant Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks, and Lionel Hollins tried to leave for the lead assistant job with the Portland Trail Blazers. And of the team’s three bench assistants, those aren’t the only two who have looked into other openings, as current Lakers assistant Phil Handy also reportedly got interviewed as a candidate to be the next head coach of the Washington Wizards.
Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register broke the news in a longer feature on Handy’s streak of six straight NBA Finals appearances coming to an end:
Turning 50 next month, Phil Handy figures to be a part of other memorable runs. While he’s made no indication that he is leaving Los Angeles, he does have ambitions to be a head coach someday. Two people with knowledge of the situation told SCNG that Handy interviewed for the Washington Wizards head coaching job last month. More such interviews are likely in the coming years for a coach who has been on a number of winning staffs.
Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. is currently the favorite to land the Wizards job, but this is the first we’ve officially heard of Handy both being interested in and interviewing for a head coaching job. And it’s not hard to see why he’d be an appealing candidate, both for this opening and others.
Handy has demonstrated an ability to not just be one of the top skills trainers in the basketball world, but someone who can command the respect of the NBA’s biggest stars, from LeBron James, to Kobe Bryant, to Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving, amongst others. That is arguably the most important quality for a head coach to have in today’s NBA, and so it’s no surprise that teams are starting to be interested in Handy as more than an assistant coach. This may be the first head job that Handy has been tied to, but it certainly won’t be the last, regardless of whether or not he gets this one.
With Unseld in the lead in Washington, however, it appears that Handy’s departure from Los Angeles may not be imminent. But still, at some point he is likely going to get one of these gigs. It’s more a matter of “when” than “if,” given the admiration Handy has throughout the basketball world. When he does, the Lakers will have another spot on their bench to fill.
But if that spot opens up as a result of Handy’s candidacy skyrocketing due to another title or Finals appearance this coming season, the Lakers surely won’t be complaining. There is almost always a brain drain that hits the benches of contenders, and when the time comes, Handy will have more than earned his shot. At that point, it will be on the Lakers to find the next hot head coaching prospect to replace him.
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