Saturday, February 4 2023

In his younger years, Phil Handy tried his hand at playing pro basketball, but he didn’t quite make it.

After he was a standout at the University of Hawaii, he went undrafted in the 1995 NBA draft, and he failed to stick around in the league after a couple of preseason stints that year.

Handy then played briefly in the now-defunct Continental Basketball League and in multiple foreign leagues. Years later, he became a trainer, but when the Los Angeles Lakers came calling with an assistant coaching job, he wasn’t interested at the time in such a role.

However, the late great Kobe Bryant nudged Handy into a successful coaching career, and he admitted as much while on a recent episode of the “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas” podcast.

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“I had no desire to be a coach. That was not part of my plan, to be a coach in the NBA so to speak. I just knew I wanted to try to impact the game of basketball on a global scale in terms of helping athletes become elite with their skill, that was my motivation.”

“In 2011 Mike Brown got hired by the Lakers, my motivation in the industry was I wanted to be able to train with some of the best players ever, so when Mike got that job, and the opportunity came for me to work with the Lakers, the only thing that really sold me on it, was to have the opportunity to stand next to Kobe, that was it. I wasn’t interested in necessarily coaching in the NBA, I wanted the opportunity to see if my skill set as a trainer was good enough to impact a guy like Kobe. That was my motivation and that was the only reason I took that job.”

Handy was fortunate enough to work with Bryant for two seasons, and since then he has grown into perhaps the best player development coach in the league.

He has also coached LeBron James, first as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coaching staff, and now with the Lakers over the past three seasons.

It may be better to be lucky than good, but maximizing that luck is even better. Handy has certainly done so by elevating his craft.


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