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Phil Handy’s Screaming May Have Saved the Cavs’ Season

AP Images
AP Images

Sometimes the key to winning an NBA title is employing the right assistant. In 2008, Celtics first-year defensive coordinator Tom Thibodeau was hailed as a mastermind for figuring out how to contain Kobe Bryant in the Finals, which Boston won in six games. And Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey earned a similar reputation for his work in the 2011 Finals, which saw Dallas render LeBron James irrelevant.

Last year it was Warriors video assistant/playlist coordinator Nick U’Ren, who convinced Steve Kerr to sub in Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bogut before Golden State’s pivotal Game 4 victory over the Cavs. The Dubs won the series, the vaunted Death Lineup was born, and U’Ren became an inspiration to big-dreaming supply chain professionals everywhere. [Editor’s note: The Ringer cannot verify the authenticity of U’Ren’s LinkedIn account, but we’d like to believe that if he can master the NBA Finals, logistics should be no problem.]

If the Cavs shock the world and come back to win this year’s Finals, we can add another name to the list: Phil Handy, Cavs assistant coach and the guru behind Cleveland’s Game 3 blowout. But Handy didn’t provide the Cavs with a tactical adjustment — he simply berated the shit out of them.

According to cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes, Handy, an Oakland native, took the Cavs’ embarrassing Game 2 loss personally, and “erupted with a profanity-laced tirade” in the locker room. The rant, which reportedly lasted for a “few minutes,” was out of character for the normally reserved Handy. Channing Frye credited the speech with reminding the Cavs of their identity, and Richard Jefferson lauded the former high school trainer for saying “something that needed to be said.” The Cavs responded with a wire-to-wire, 30-point win that proved they aren’t out of it yet. The lesson? X’s and O’s are great, but sometimes you need to go full Bobby Knight.