MANILA - Phil Handy of the Los Angeles Lakers, a three-time NBA champion as an assistant coach, is in Manila to conduct basketball clinics in the country.
The coach who goes by “Mr. 94 Feet of the Game” will hold training programs for local basketball coaches, elite varsity teams, and the Converge FiberXers of the PBA.
Filipinos will learn a lot as he is set to train locals the way he did personally with some of the NBA’s 75 greatest players like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard.
Handy, a first-time Manila visitor, said he is thrilled to get to know more about the basketball-crazy Philippines.
“I really just, just getting a real feel for Filipino culture. I grew up in a community, but if you touch down in the Philippines and have a chance to be here, I’ve always heard great things about it, just getting a chance to experience the culture, and the food and then just having the opportunity to dive into the basketball community, I’m really excited of all those things," he said,
Besides having played in the US, Handy has also played in England, France and Australia before going into coaching and player development. He said he wants to share his knowledge not just in the United States.
“I just love the game of basketball so anyway I can share that information, share my experiences with coaches and players, there is no corner of the earth we won’t go to do it and that’s what drives me really. Just being able to help the game of basketball continue to be on a healthy place all over the world. So this is the first stop ... and I’m glad it’s in the Philippines.”
Even though it’s the off-season for him as the Lakers’ assistant coach, he will not take it easy on the players he will ll handle while he’s in town.
“I’m gonna treat them the same way I treat Laker players, that’s what they expect anytime I step on the floor. Doesn’t matter the athlete, the gender, the skill level, they’re gonna get Phil Handy in whole just prepare to work and have some fun as you’re working,” he said.
Handy has a wealth of basketball knowledge to share with Filipinos as his teams have entered the NBA finals an unprecedented six straight times from 2015 to 2020.
He won 3 championships, with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, the Toronto Raptors in 2019 and the Lakers in 2020.
He said his championship run with the Cavaliers was his favorite.
“We were down 3-1, our backs were against the wall and there’s a lot of different storylines within that championship. Lebron James obviously from Cleveland he gets to go home and win a championship first championship for the Cavaliers. I’m from Oakland, California. so for me as a coach to win my first championship in Oakland, there’s and to be the first team in history to come back from being down 3-1, that was a special, spectacular historical run that we made so that’s always kinda been my favorite one and my first championship as a coach,” he said.
Austin Reaves, who will be playing in Manila for the United States in the upcoming FIBA World Cup, received praise from his coach saying he saw the potential from his rookie year.
“I saw it early on and obviously the Laker organization as well. I said in Austin’s rookie year that he’s gonna be a great player in the NBA and his ability to—I’ll just put it this way—he’s fearless, he’s not afraid of the moment,” said Handy.
With Johnny Abarrientos almost making it to the NBA in the ‘90s, Japeth Aguilar being the first full-blooded Filipino being drafted in the NBA G-League, and Kai Sotto knocking on the league’s gate, Handy weighs in on what it’ll take to finally have the first home-grown full-blooded Filipino in the NBA.
“Just a matter of time, I think that part of the game, the evolution of it. Again, we talk about the Filipino culture of basketball, it’s just a matter of time so you can expect that in the coming years. The culture here and the way the game has changed over the years as athletes are growing athletes are studying the game, it’s just a matter of time,” he said.