Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach, Phil Handy is carving out a remarkable resume in the NBA.
The highly regarded basketball mind claimed his third championship with the Lakers win over the Miami Heat, in what was his sixth straight visit to The Finals.
After a long and successful professional career that took him from Europe to Australia, Handy has since manned NBA sidelines as a coach with the Lakers (2011-13, 2019-20), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-18) and Toronto Raptors (2018-19).
With the exception of the 2019 run in Toronto, Handy's success is a testament to his bond with LeBron James, whom he has worked closely with in both Cleveland and Los Angeles.
"Me and Bron have been able to build a relationship that started from the work," Handy told NBA Australia's Courtside Huddle, "I just have an insane amount of respect for him, his body of work and how he approaches taking care of himself and how he approaches being available for his teammates, being available for the organisation. He's just a different breed."
"When you have the opportunity to work with guys like that and you earn their trust and they understand you just want to be there to help them any way you can, I think it's a great testament to organic relationships that are built from what you do on the floor," Handy continued.
MORE: CATCH THE FULL EPISODE OF COURTSIDE LIVE WITH PHIL HANDY
That relationship extends from the practice gym to game night, with Handy quick to dispell any suggestion that James is difficult to deal with from a coaching perspective.
"He gets criticised for so much crazy stuff but I tell you what, he's one of the most coachable dudes I've ever been around, I tell that to people all the time. He is a basketball savant, he's a basketball junkie, he's the ultimate competitor. The man is fearless in taking care of his body, he studies the game relentlessly."
Like any successful coach, Handy deflects praise for his own work, instead pointing to the greatness of James as a driver for the standards he sets for himself as a teacher and mentor.
"For me as a coach and all of us who had a chance to coach him and be around him, it challenges us. It challenges us as a coach to raise our game as well and make sure we're on point. We always think it's just the coaches pushing players but I tell people all the time that great players challenge us to be better coaches too because they are so smart and they are so on top of what they are doing that we also have to be on top of what we are doing."
From the outside, James appeared to narrow his focus in the bubble with a fourth title within his grasp. Notorious for his preperation over the course of his 17-year career, Handy admits it was a case of same old LeBron in the season return.
"[It was] nothing different to what I've seen from him before. That's what's so great about him. His level of consistency, it's not any different, he locks into what he is doing and he's consistent.
"That's what I saw, it was no different. Was there a sense or urgency..yeah there was a sense of urgency, last year he wasn't in the playoffs, but his mindset and what he did, it was the same thing I saw in Cleveland, the same thing I've seen over the years with him."
Given Handy's incredible coaching record, it should come as no surprise that his name has been mentioned in reports for various coaching roles around the league for the 2021 season. Whether it's in Los Angeles with the Lakers or elsewhere, you'd be a brave man to bet against a seventh straight finals appearance.
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