• Brian L. Barefield

Championship Pedigree: Lakers assistant coaches have played a major role in the team’s success.

Photo Credit/Los Angeles Lakers

With 3:25 left in the third quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called a timeout to get his team refocused after trailing by five points in a game they once led by 21.

There was clear frustration on his face being that he is a defensive minded coach and he was in the midst of watching the Rockets rip to shreds any and every defensive scheme he threw at them in that quarter. But instead of getting upset, Vogel turned to the one group that has helped him and the LeBron James led Lakers obtain the top seed in the Western Conference this year. His assistant coaches that was already on the job with the new adjustments.

Vogel has what some would consider the best minds in the game to sit along the bench with him in Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Phil Handy. When you have that type of basketball pedigree at your disposal, there aren’t too many things that can go wrong.

“Each of these guys brings a unique set of skills and experiences that will greatly impact the success of our players, as we look to build a championship-caliber team,” said Vogel during his press conference to announce his coaching staff before the 2019-20 NBA season started.

Kidd brings something very unique to the Lakers staff by being very successful at the point guard position for over 17 years in the NBA. The former second overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft ended his career as an NBA Finals champion and retired second all-time in assists and steals behind legendary Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton. He also made the NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams a combined nine times in his career.

His head coaching career wasn’t as successful as his time on the court, but it brought another intangible that benefits Vogel and the rest of the Lakers staff. Kidd’s most recent sideline job was the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks from 2014-18. Prior to that he spent one season with the Brooklyn Nets as their head coach from 2013-14 where he earned Eastern Conference Coach of the Month twice during his tenure there.

Lakers assistants Lionel Hollins and Jason Kidd. Photo Credit/Los Angeles Lakers

Vogel also has another former floor general and tenacious point guard with head coaching experience at his disposal in Lionel Hollins. Selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers, Hollins helped the team become NBA Champions in his second season in the league.

After 10 years of service he retired and became an assistant coach at Arizona State to start his new career that eventually guided him to becoming the most successful head coach for Memphis Grizzles leading them to the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13. He replaced Kidd in Brooklyn where he spent two seasons before eventually being relieved of his duties in 2016. Hollins had been out of coaching for nearly three years before joining the Lakers staff.

If “Blue Collar Worker” was a person his name would be Phil Handy. He has been a part of the last five NBA Finals (4-Cleveland, 1-Toronto) as an assistant coach. Handy was not drafted coming out of the University of Hawaii in 1995 but played seven years in between the Continental Basketball Association and internationally in Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Israel, and Italy. That international experience and being part of winning franchises makes Handy an intricate part of the Lakers organization.

Comradery and communication on and off the court plays a major factor when you are trying to win a championship and the Lakers coaches have that amongst each other. Whether its playing golf together, eating dinner, or even on the team bus, the coaches are always brainstorming ways to gain a competitive edge on their opponents and Vogel invites the feedback from the men he considers peers more than their boss.

“A lot of times, I’m wrong,” Vogel said in an earlier interview this year before heading to Chicago to coach the 2020 NBA All-Star game. “They have an opportunity to say, ‘I don’t know if I would do that, Coach’ or I’ll say something, and they may say ‘I love that, I actually love that idea. Let’s go with that.’ They bring me a lot of affirmation for what my gut instinct is on that moment, and they’ve done a great job with that.”

Superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis will get a ton of credit if the Lakers go on to win their 17th NBA title in franchise history this year. But they will also recognize that they would not have obtained such glory if it had not been for the brilliant minds head coach Frank Vogel surrounded them with.

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