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Talking with: Jim Cleamons, Part Two

In the first part of my conversation with Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons, we talked a lot about his playing career, and how it impacted his development as a person and a coach.  In the second, we'll spend more time on coaching itself, talking about philosophies, the people who have coached him, and how the Lakers' staff operates as a unit. 

As before, keep in mind that the audio file has the complete interview, and what comes below are excerpts from it.  To hear the entire thing, click on the audio link. Download jim_cleamons_2_coaching.mp3


On the role assistant coaches play in the coaching staff, which has seen so much continuity over the years, and has so much experience.  What’s the dynamic?

“I think we all understand that we are a team of coaches, just like the players are a team on the floor.  Our job is to help PJ prepare the team, and it’s unimportant who gets the glory… We revel in (that) fact, and are very competitive about the job that we do.  It’s not a complicated system, but it’s a very good system of basketball that we teach.  We don’t have an offensive coordinator or a defensive coordinator (as some teams do)…  We kind of transcend all the little phases of the game, and PJ puts it all together.  He is the spokesperson, and the face of our coaching staff…”

“…Sometimes I’m rather quiet, because having been a head coach, sometimes you need the information, but you also need to digest information.  If there are too many voices that you hear, it gets you ultimately confused.  Especially when all of us are saying almost the same thing.  Don’t quibble, let’s just get it done…”

“…We all have different teams that we scout, and in our preparation will have these grandiose ideas, but they have to be applicable and practicable in order to get the job done…” 

On Phil Jackson- his idiosyncrasies (the Zen factor, handing out books, etc.) and complaints that he doesn’t “coach” as much as others. 

“If you’ve got to do all those things on the day of a game (jumping up and down, tossing the jacket, etc.) than you haven’t done things correctly in practice.  I’ve heard that from a lot of different people.  If you’re up ranting and raving, and trying to get your team to execute at game time, than you didn’t adequately prepare your team at practice time.  Game time is too late to coach.  You can make adjustments, but if you’re up trying to diagram and do this and do that and do the other, than it’s too late.  Because once again, if you haven’t practiced appropriately or accordingly, at the last two minutes of a game, you’re asking a whole heck of a lot out of your basketball team to all of a sudden do things that they haven’t practiced.  That’s like throwing paint on the wall- Something’s gonna stick, and some won’t…  All that other stuff is for show.”

On coaching, prepping a team:

“…Sometimes you’re gonna get caught with your drawers down.  A guy’s holding something that you haven’t seen before… hey, give him his credit.  But by and large, we’re generally very well prepared, and our team knows what they need to do.  Now if they don’t do it, than they first of all have to do it on the practice floor before they can do it in the game.  In this sport, it’s repetition.  It’s putting guys in the right spot in practice, and then the memory in game time comes back…

“…The games come so quickly, sometimes you’re not as prepared as you want to be, because (maybe) you have four games in five days, you’ve got two games back to back.  Or you have other teams that you need to prepare for, and (one) team does something very special, and your guys can’t find the rhythm as to how to defend it.  That’s why you also not only need athletes who can play the game, you need people who can think the game…”

How has PJ changed as a coach, or has he?

“He’s a lot more lenient these days than he when we first started out in terms of letting guys get away with certain things.  But once again, it’s a different breed (of player) and part of the adjusting that you have to do as a coach is realize who it is you’re teaching… So you just have to dot your I’s and cross your T’s out here on the court in practice time, you play how you practice.  That means take care of the basketball, take certain shots.  There’s just appropriate behavior if you’re going to be a real good professional.”

So he’s found more balance between the yelling at practice and giving guys more space?

“Yeah.  Which is good, because once again, once you have your own coaching style, you have to feel comfortable with who you are as both a person and a teacher.  And I think he’s very comfortable with who he is.”

You coached in Dallas under tough circumstances.  How do you look back on that experience, and would you like to have another chance to be a head coach in the NBA?

“I’m extremely hopeful that another opportunity will come my way.  I used to work construction in the summertime, in between going to school.  Earning my money.  The construction workers had a saying, “It’s a matter of time.”  I think if you do the right thing, and put your dues in and work, it’s just a matter of time.  So I’m hopeful that it’s a matter of time until I have my own team once again.  If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen. But I’m hopeful.”

“(Dallas) was a good experience in the fact that I know I can coach.  I know I can teach.  But you need time.  One year, I had 27 moves off my roster.  It’s tough.  Trying to get people to understand.  Injuries, and management wanted to trade people.  It was like a revolving door.  But through all that, I was losing by two points, four points, overtime, double overtime.  So I know I was doing something right, but I wasn’t winning enough games.  But to stay competitive in that situation, you have to be doing some things right.”

Is it tough to be in your spot, when so much attention is paid to the “next hot assistant,” making experienced guys like you seemingly less attractive?

“I understand being the next pretty face on the block, but I also understand that with experience and longevity, you have to be doing something correctly, and it’s just my hope that an owner and general manager will look and see there’s some value.  If they’re looking for someone who’s been through the fire and is tested, hopefully that’s the situation I’d like to be in.”

You’ve been coached or coached with an impressive list of people- Bill Sharman, Red Holtzman, KC Jones, Dick Motta, Bill Fitch, Phil Jackson, and on.  If you could construct a perfect coach out of what you’ve learned from all those people, what would you draw from them?  Obviously, they didn’t all do things the same way.

“You didn’t know my high school coach (Vince Ciccarello).  My high school coach is also in the Ohio Hall of Fame.  He could take his and beat yours, and turn around and take yours and beat his.  That’s the kind of coach I think I am.  You just have to be patient, but through it all you have to be steadfast.  You have to have the principles I talked about in everything that you do… X’s and O’s, you can diagram X’s and O’s, but ultimately they have to turn into people.  And good coaches always have good relationships with those around them.  Because ultimately, the player has to have a belief in his coach and a belief in his system.  And he has to want to do it. 

And that wanting to do it, wanting to play for a coach, wanting to believe in his coach is ultimately what team play is all about.  “Let’s do it.”  Not “I’m going to do it,” but “Let’s do it.”  So let the system prevail.  In a team sport, you play for yourself, but more importantly, you play for your teammates…"

“…That’s a common denominator for most of those names.  I played with some guys on that list, and I knew it was them first, and they knew it was them first.  And on those teams, we didn’t do as much winning as we could have done…  They were short term in their thinking…”

Keep an eye out for Part Three, in which we'll talk about Kobe and the development of this year's team. 

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The Force is in balance and all is well in Lakers Blog Land.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Bynum would have been on the ALL-STAR TEAM Iif he
had not got hurt” ” Magic , Charles Barkley on the TNT Pregame Show.
QUOTE OF DAY 2: “The Lakers are going to do some damage in the Playoffs if
they stay healthy. They have the deepest team in the NBA” STEVEN A. SMITH
tha_SHOW, hmmm, Smooth D, JCool, WOW, Occupant-Cell-186, The D.,
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continuation . . .

who would you want as the next coach of the lakers?

PS, major props to Jim Cleamons,
----- he was with us if i believe during the 3-peat years keeping our D tight. And now what he taught to the Hornets is starting to show, as they regained their health and are able to put his theories into practice. AND notice how the lakers as a team are better defensively this year compared to the buck shot defense we played last year (yes i know, Fisher > Smush, Kobe's increased effort, Development of Bynum)

Time for a time out
I'll tell the guys to defend their perimeter shooters
I better bring Rony in....and quick
I better yell at the players to start moving on offense
Time to take Kwame out... he's killing us
Why did we re-sign Luke
I should tell Mitch myself what an idiot he is
WTF is Lamar waiting for
I'll let the media know that Kobe's 9 turnovers were his fault and not his teammates
Man I wish I hadn't driven Jerry west away
Good thing the general public thinks I'm a genius... thanks Mike Scotty Shaq & Kobe

Phil Jackson

injuries are a part of life,

That's life this is Walgreens.

I'm surprised people wouldn't want Rambis or Shaw as head coach in a couple of years. Rambis has grown tremendously since he was thrown in as head coach. Shaw is great with players. I'm telling you, we're going to lose at least one during the offseason because somebody else will hire them as a head coach, possibly even the Clippers. Rambis has worked really well with the young guys and in a couple of years, those guys are going to be the base of the team so... ??? no love for Rambis? We've got the best staff in the league, Rambis, Shaw, Craig Hodges, Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblin, and Tex Winter and... oh yeah, we've got friggin KAREEM ABDUL JABBAR instructing our big men!!! That's a freakin murder's row there...

Oh yeah... Lamar Odom... yeah... tonight will be his "tease" game where he puts up a solid double/double and everybody will be wondering why in the world he will take 5 shots in the next game...

This refers back to Jim Cleamons' comments on how valuable the second unit was on the 71-72 Lakers:
I think he's full of it unless the starters were really dogging it in practice.
Could you see:
Leroy Ellis over Wilt,
John Q. Trapp over Happy Hairston
Pat Riley over Jim McMillian
Flynn Robinson over Gail Goodrich
Jim Cleamons over Jerry West?
Yeah, right!
The only semi-decent bench players were Riley and Ellis, the rest hardly ever played. Keith Erickson was injured almost the whole year.

I'm sensing that Laker Nation is fairly grumpy today.




I could never take your spot.....
Your an O.G. on this blogg.......
that's like a young KOBE coming in wanting to wear #32.
I'm still shooting AIR BALLS in the play-off........
Give me a chance too work on my move up in the ranks.
An soon i'll become a 10 time ALL-STAR.


Laker Nation represent!!

1. There are rumors out that Shaq may retire - he denies them, but they are still there. The question of the day – would you sell your team’s soul to the devil for one title and then get saddled with an unmanageable contract for the next three years and see your team go into the crapper for the next 6? Could Jerry and Mitch have known what they were doing when they threw his fat ass out of town?

2. the next coach of the Lakers is B Scott - no ifs, ands, or buts.

3. The win against Dallas needs to happen today – I don’t care if Kobe shoots 100 times and scores 50. Sharing the ball with losers in not a game plan.

Later ...

"Could Jerry and Mitch have known what they were doing when they threw his fat ass out of town?"


1. if you think Shaq is retiring... you don't know Shaq... dude's getting a divorce, might as well toss out at least 66% of what he has made in the past. He's got $20m coming per year, he brought them a championship as promised. He feels he's DUE the remainder of his contract, even if he's sitting behind the bench.

2. I dig Byron Scott. Don't know what the sudden love for him is about but... whatever...

3. just don't share the ball with that loser, Lamar Odom. First, he has to pick up the mandatory charging foul he gets every game, then he has to miss 2 point blank shots and stand there complaining while everybody races down the court for a quick score at the other end. Then, after halftime, he'll come out like he took 12 sleeping pills and stand around the 3 point line enjoying the Kobe Bryant Show.

At the beginning of this year, who would've thought that Bynum would MASK the inconsistencies of Lamar Odom? Well... who doesn't think that now? LOL! P.S. Rambis RULES! He's our next coach!!! Na Na de Na Naaaa!

let's see.........
I'll force Mr. Buss to trade me
I'll work real hard for 1 year
get 20 mil for 5 or 6 years
Maybe get lucky and make the finals and have the other team choke
Win another ring
get fat and lazy
well, get fatter and lazier
and just before I retire early because of injuries
I'll tell everbody I'm down to 310 with 11% BODY FAT
HA HA even though I'm closer to 400
oh yeah, and make everyone believe DWADE is a superstar and better than Kobe

Most Dominant Ever

Compton's Finest,

You are most welcome.

To be associated with #32 is the highest compliment you can give. The truth is, I'm an assist guy to Mamba24 so Vlade Divac's description would be more appropriate with bad back, bulging belly with lots of time traveling Europe without any results.

Mike Bresnahan must not place close attention to the Lakers or Kwame Brown. There's a reason why other NBA players voted him as the number one player who gets the least out of the potential he has.

I'd rather see Jelani McCoy starting at center.



I am a Byron Scott fan, but one thing will always bother me about his coaching. When the Nets faced the Lakers in the finals, Byron clearly had a "I'm just happy to be here" attitude. I remember thinking this after every Byron Scott interview troughout the series. This "loser" attitude seemed to have infected the entire Nets team. In fact, all of his players, except Kenyon Martin, seemingly had the same mindset as their coach . The Nets were obviously outmatched, but they had no tenacity, there were no hard fouls on Shaq, they were clearly intimidated, and the Nets lost that series before even stepping out on the court. Mike Tyson's opponents were so psyched out and intimidated before the bell rang, that they lost the fight before even stepping into the ring. That was the Nets' mindset in that series, and I have to blame Byron for that. The Sixers were outmatched as well in the previous year, but that team played their hearts out with no fear against the Lakers. I attribute that to Larry Brown (and AI). Sure, that was Byron's first finals appearance as a coach, and yeah, he did a great job of getting the Nets to the finals, and he's doing a fine job in New Orleans. BUT, his wussy attitude during those finals would definately give me second thoughts about hiring him as coach of the Lakers.

Kurt Rambis will never be the future coach of the Lakers until he gets rid of that porn stache.


"Could Jerry and Mitch have known what they were doing when they threw his fat a** out of town?"

Yes, they knew but they did not expect that in two years' time he could still deliver Championship with D'wade and blend well witht the other old foggies.

I was in the three parades when Lakers won from '00-'02, we all loved Shaq and we never addressed him "a-hole". It is after squabbles of '04, we took sides with the Lakers especially when Big Ego protected his turf in Miami against the old man. All of us know Big Ego is overpaid and $ 30M is too muchfor 50% FT but humongous figure discouraged aspiring C in this league, practically we bought the Championship. Based on past experiences with Mikan, Wilt and Kareem, JB sensed his fading glory not worth for that money plus the Kobe factor. Therefore, he was shipped out. What I disagree was the way he slammed the door and how we reacted, too much animosity, too much fanfare at the expense of the Laker organization as a stable enterprise. Like in politics, it is dirty game but you cannot slam the door on your opponent, "your enemy today might become your friend tomorrow." You can always separate ways in the most amicable manner for the sake of posterity that sooner or later you will be reunited. I'm not suggesting that we take him back unless if he agrees for $ 1M that would be a disgrace w/ Big Ego. Someday you will see Kobe, Shaq and Jerry (if he's still alive) share the floor at Staples watching their jerseys being raised.

At the twilight of my career, (if I were Shaq) I will hire Kareem and the dream Olajuwon to improve my body conditioning, my shooting and post movements. I need only two years which is worth $40M, so spending half million for special training will be worthwhile.

Now that the Heat are at the bottom of the standings, and the Lakers are competing in the higher rankings, Shaq is no longer a competitor but a Laker fan deep inside, his battles are over, he is now after posterity.

Im sure Cleamons is a nice guy and a good coach but when a team makes the same mistake playing the pick and roll TIME AFTER TIME , thats coaching, or lack thereof, depending on how u look at it.

Interesting article on about how the responsibility for motivating Kwame has fallen on Kobe. Don't know how true it is, but it's interesting:

Abstract: "...the major issue for the Lakers these days is resuscitating Kwame, and that responsibility will fall not on the square shoulders of head coach Phil Jackson but on the team’s MVP candidate."

Lonnie White of the LA Times isn't optimistic: " ...says the odds of the Lakers beating the line tonight are highly unlikely without Bynum, because of Kwame's increased playing time.

I'm much more concerned about Lamar than I am about Kwame. We've won before when Kwame didn't exceed expectations. But another night of LO MIA won't get it done.

Compton's Finest,

I looked up the urban hood dictionary what OG means? Lo and behold, it says Original Gangster. That may be true and Mike T. is our leader of the block. haha (j/k only)

Finally figured Kwame out.

No braids. Its thrown off his timing. Its like one of those Samson things, cut his hair, lose his strength and timing.

He played better with braids the last two years.

Grow your hair Kwame. It will all come back.

Faith- start drinking now, Luke vs Josh Howard - not going to be pretty

Lamar Odom has been averaging 10pts 3 turnovers 31% shooting from field 10% from the three point line in his last 6 games 5 of them without Bynum....I take back my previous post (offering LO no more than 7.5m a year) if the Lakers in any way end up keeping this guy past next year.... I would offer him a MLE for 5 years, that's it.... Take it or get the F out of hear, the only reason I would offer that is do to his rebounding, ball handling, That's it. That's the only thing LO is good for...

As for Kwame and Look + VRAD I think Mitch is pretty much still a Cupcake stupid a--- GM.... The only thing not allowing me type more nastier words is due to Farmar and Ariza ( he does not get credit for Bynum)


suns having some trouble with the cavs, lebrons going off in the first quarter. can we please win and the suns loose so then were only 1/2 game out? BIG GAME FROM FISH AND FARMAR TONIGHT!!!!!



I miss Andrew Bynum so much. I wish Kwame would never play another game for the Lakers even with Bynum out on the sidlines.

I hope Phil will stop relying on Kwame and Walton like they can help the Lakers. It's time to start FARMAR.



This should eliminate the PT for Kwame and reduced Walton's time on the floor a lot. It puts Farmar as a starter and gives Crit PT in his natural position. Phil should use the depth of his healthy backcourt.

STAPLES CENTER should BOOOO Kwame harder to get the message to Phil.

MIHM, KWAME, VLAD, ODOM AND WALTON = Lakers need to make big changes on its frontcourt this summer, starting this Feb 21 deadline won't hurt any.

BYNUM, TURIAF and ARIZA = solid frontline but after these three, what does the Lakers have?

Lakers are deep and healthy in the backcourt.

Kobe, Sasha, Karl, Crittenton, Fisher and Farmar

Phil has to maximize his team's strength at the guard positions and minimize his weaknesses at the Center and Forward positions.


#3 on your last post is sooo right on.

I don't usually comment on the blog although I read it daily. I really enjoy the audio clips that you guys are able to share -- usually we fans have to settle for a few quotes in an article or a soundclip on tv. It's really nice to hear these comments within the larger context of an actual conversation.

Anyway, I just finished listening to parts 1 and 2 of your Jim Cleamons interview, BK, and I really enjoyed them. This is great stuff. I hope you guys have more interviews like this planned with other coaches and players!

Jim Cleamons lookalike: Lee Van Cleef.

I feel you Shaq. I'd be a little grumpy too if my wife cheated on me with her trainer. Keep playing ball, big guy. I'd take a free ride to 40 mil any day.

Cleveland spanking the Suns ...... because of the finals' sweep, Cavs' were considered a lightweight team who luckily made the finals from a bad conference, well, they're still in a bad conference, but I predict, with all of their team now back, they'll make the finals again, as they were and still are perhaps the best defensive team in the NBA.... and the Suns have to either make a move or will lose the pacific to the Lakers, whose game tonight becomes imperative with Suns looking like they'll lose....

Phoenix is on the verge of giving up 70 first half points to Cleveland....Almost made it. 69 points.


Lee Van Cleef, yeah he looks like the gangslinger the Magnificent 7 has been hunting.

People truly need to appreciate KOBE's game...all around..he is completely Exhausted, beat the PHUKK up, you can see it, but yet he is there, in the game, battling, goin to war, trying to WIN the game...A game..Appreciate..Laker fan or Not..Appreciate the game..If nothing else, Appreciate Kobe's game.


oops, continued

Jerry West was a great judge of TALENT



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