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Phil Handy says he’s ‘ready to be a head coach’ after years as top assistant

Long considered one of the league’s best assistants, Phil Handy stated in a recent interview that he’s ready to take the step up from trusted voice with the Lakers to head coach himself.

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New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

In a move that shouldn’t be all that surprising, Phil Handy is a man ready to move from the shadows as an assistant head coach. After spending 11 years on the sidelines, the current Lakers assistant is looking to take his first foray into the main role as a head coach.

Handy appeared on the “Certified Buckets” podcast on Wednesday and talked about his future (h/t NY Daily News).

“I am definitely at that point now to where I know I’m ready to be a head coach,” the Lakers’ assistant said in his podcast appearance. “I’m ready to take on my own team and direct the ship in that fashion.”

Handy has had two stints with the Lakers, the latest of which coming when he was brought onto the staff by Frank Vogel in 2019. Prior to that, Handy was a player development coach with the Lakers from 2011 until 2013, then made stops with the Cavaliers Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors in the subsequent years. Handy also received an interview for the open Washington Wizards head coaching job last summer before it ultimately went to Wes Unseld.

Long renowned for his reputation as a player development coach, Handy says he has started to take on more responsibilities in recent seasons to continue improving himself.

“It’s been a tremendous learning curve for me over the last 11 years and, probably within the last 3 years, I’ve really started trying to put myself in position to be looked at as head coach material,” he said. “Just learning more things about defenses and offenses and breaking down X’s and O’s and game plans and strategies.”

But despite being interested in taking a head coaching gig, Handy isn’t looking for just ANY head coaching gig, necessarily. Beggers may not be able to be choosers, but if Handy has his preference, he wouldn’t be coaching a rebuilding team.

“One, I’m not interested in losing, that’s for sure. I’m not interested in so-to-speak, quote-unquote rebuilding,” he said. “Being a head coach, you don’t always get the opportunity to pick and choose what you want, but I do want a team that has the ability to compete. That’s important to me. So being able to take some young talent and putting that talent on the floor and put yourself in position to compete and be in the playoffs, I would love to be in situation like that and be able to develop some guys, be able to help change and create a culture and bring a winning approach to the organization, so I think it’s a combination, but winning is important to me, it’s always been at the top of the list for me.”

If it feels like he’s campaigning for the Lakers job in some ways, you aren’t alone in your thinking. The Lakers have a mix — albeit a small one — of younger players on the squad with Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves and potentially Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel contrasted with the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who would make any team a competitive one.

For now, Handy has not interviewed for the job (or at least it hasn’t been publicly reported) with the Lakers only requesting to interview Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin so far. Handy fits perfectly into the mold of top assistants landing interviews with the team so far, and considering he would reportedly have been the interim head coach if Vogel was fired this season, it seems like he has some trust within the organization.

But this desire does mean Handy’s time as an assistant for the Lakers might be done, which is bad news for the franchise, but hopefully leads to good things for Handy in his future.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.