Newly-hired Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse continues to round out his coaching staff. Last week, Michael Grange (Sportsnet) indicated that one of Nurse's assistant coaching targets was former Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Phil Handy.
In the first episode of his podcast released Tuesday morning, Raptors guard Danny Green hinted at the news by expressing his excitement to work with Handy in the near future. ESPN's Marc Spears would later confirm Handy's hiring on Tuesday evening.
Kudos to Phil Handy, who has worked closely with the likes of Kobe, LeBron and Kyrie, as he has landed with the Raptors as an assistant coach after departing from the Cavaliers.- Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 25, 2018
As indicated by Spears, Handy has developed a reputation as one of the best skill development coaches in the NBA.
Here's more on how he got to where he is today and why Raptors fans should be excited about the new hire…
Handy, a native of California, grew up in Oakland before moving to the nearby suburb of Union City at the age of 11.
After a year of junior college basketball, Handy spent two seasons playing at the University of Hawaii, where he averaged 10.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 62 games.
Handy went undrafted in 1995 but had brief stints with the NBA's Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers before embarking upon a career overseas.
During his international career, Handy played in Israel, France, England, Germany, Italy and Australia. He developed a working relationship with Raptors head coach Nick Nurse as a member of the BBL's Manchester Giants.
After retiring from his playing career, Handy began his transition into the next phase of his basketball life.
In a 2012 interview with Lakers.com reporter Mike Trudell, Handy spoke on how he got into player development:
"After retiring from playing myself about 12 years ago, I started my own basketball training business. Tony Delk, Eddie House, Shawn Marion and Penny Hardaway were some of the first guys I worked with, and Tony encouraged me to make it a business."
From there, his training business grew and he developed a clientele of established pros such as Arron Afflalo, Jeremy Lin and five-time All-Star Blake Griffin.
NBA Coaching Career
Los Angeles Lakers (2011-13)
Handy's reputation led to then-Lakers head coach Mike Brown appointing him as the team's player development coach.
In his two seasons with the team, he worked with and quickly earned the respect of Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, among others.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-18)
When Brown was brought back as the head coach of Cleveland in 2013, he brought Handy along with him to serve in a similar capacity.
It didn't take long for Handy and 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving to develop a strong bond. According to a 2016 article written by Spears, Handy connected Irving with Kobe Bryant, which led to Irving adopting many of Bryant's habits. Irving speaks highly of Handy:
"Coach Handy has done an unbelievable job. He's kind of the one who introduced the relationship and mentorship that I have with Kobe. And in terms of working out late nights, doing whatever it takes to win, learning how to lead, understanding the nuances of the game and understanding what it takes to be a great player in this league, [Handy's] really kind of put down the foundation and steps."
During his time in Cleveland, Handy was seen working with all Cavs players, from All-Stars like Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron James to younger players like Kay Felder, John Holland and Jordan Clarkson.
Handy's competitive fire is why he is credited as one of the sparks that helped ignite the Cavs' comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals.
What He Brings
Handy specializes in skills development with an emphasis on footwork and balance, allowing him to work with players at all positions.
As Danny Green has already expressed his excitement to work with Handy, he will also do wonders in the growth of established veterans like Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, in addition to the Raptors' budding young talents of OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and Pascal Siakam.
Perhaps Handy's competitive fire can help propel the Raptors to new heights as well.
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