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Lakers Q&A: Frank Hamblen wants to remain Lakers assistant a 'few more years'

Frank HamblenThis is the second post in an occasional series that features a Q&A with a member of the Lakers organization. Below is a recent conversation with Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who's in charge of game preparations for contests against Boston, Miami, Detroit, Milwaukee, Clippers, Utah and Denver.

Phil mentioned during training camp that, assuming this is his last season, he hoped one of his assistants would be considered to replace him. If the Lakers came up to you, would you be interested in that position?

At this point in my career, no. I've taken over teams twice on an interim basis. It's a tough thing to do. At my age, I'll be 64 in April, I would think they'd want to go with somebody young. At one time, I thought I'd get an opportunity, but it didn't work out. That's OK. I had a great run.

What point were you referring to when you thought you'd get an opportunity?

When I was in my 40s and late 30s, I thought I'd get an opportunity. But it didn't happen. But that's OK.

Presuming this is Phil's last season, do you see yourself remaining an assistant here?

I still want to work another few more years. Hopefully it will be here. Hopefully one of the other guys on the staff does get the job. I think each and every one of them would do a good job. I know it's not probable, but I would like to see Phil stick around another year or two. I don't think he will, but I didn't know if he would stick around for this year, so there's always a possibility.

Knowing Phil pretty well, is that something you try to plant in his ear?

It's too early (smiles). Too early. Too early in the season to do anything. I know Jeanie [Buss] will be working on him though.

And then once the season ends, you'll get in his ear?

Yeah. I'll ask him, "What are you going to do in Montana once basketball season starts? You're supposed to be in training camp. But if you're in Montana, what are you going to do?"

You watch the College World Series with Phil a lot [Hamblen lettered in baseball at Syracuse]. Is that an option for him?

I really enjoyed baseball. Phil and I [watch it on TV]. We always threaten when we're old and retired, we'll go to Omaha and go to the College World Series, eat some hot dogs and drink some beer. I'm looking forward to it. We both played a lot of baseball. We talk a lot about baseball.

Mitch [Kupchak] has described your demeanor and approach to coaching as being level-headed. Phil has remarked about your knowledge and preparation with the teams you're in charge of scouting. In those two respects, what's your approach?

I try to treat people the way I want to be treated when we deal with our players. That's been my philosophy all along. Alex Hannum, my first coach, told me to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open when I went out scouting. I've done that throughout my career. ... As far as when it's my team, I try and get in the other coach's head and what he'll try to do against us. How would he try to approach going against us. We all watch a lot of film. I want to know what he's going to run off a timeout, what he's going to run in a close ball game, so I'm prepared to tell the head coach, Phil in this case, what I think our opponent is going to run.

Lakers assistants

One of the things you remarked about your enjoyment in working for Phil is he allows his assistants to do their job. What does that exactly entail? 

I think he's great at delegating. It's like with our teams. We have our particular teams. We set the game plan for it. If he wants to tweak it, he'll tweak it. You're responsible. You basically do most of the work and heavy lifting. You watch the film and prepare it. During shoot-arounds, you walk through it and explain how you're going to defend situations and what things will work offensively. Then you see how it works out.

It grows. As you get into the playoffs, the intensity really grows. I've been with teams where every third game you would rotate among assistants. Having teams, even though you might get stacked up with three or four games in a row ... you get to really know your team. I feel like I really know my teams. I've had Utah since I was in Chicago. I've had them for that long. I used to kid the players. One night, I told our players, "I know Jerry Sloan so well I could tell you what he had for dinner last night" in my pregame talk. I said he had prime rib, baked potato and sweet corn. I was out to dinner with him so I knew what he had for dinner. He's a friend of mine. They were like, "Yeah OK, Frank."

What's the story behind you getting a coaching job after pursuing a career in television?

I came out here [after graduating from Syracuse in 1969], had $200 in my pocket and drove across country. I had some Syracuse alumni who were in the TV/movie industry. They were producers and directors. I was doing an interview with them to get into that business. The L.A. Lakers shootout was going on way back then and the Pistons came to town. They were in one of the teams in the shootout. Dave Bing, who was a senior at Syracuse when I was a freshman, was playing, so we went out after the game. They were playing the San Diego Rockets the next night, and I said I had never been to San Diego. I'll come down. There was another Syracuse guy with us and he said, "Look up Max Shapiro." He scouts for them and I just happened to run into Max Shapiro at the game. We started talking. He said he was going to resign his position in two days and wanted to go in a different direction in life. Would I be interested in the job? I go, "Yeah. I don't have a job." I stayed over and interviewed with Pete Newell, the general manager, and they wound up hiring me. Well, Pete knew I played and all that, college ball. He knew my coach so he called my coach, and my coach gave me a good recommendation and they hired me. We had a good draft so here I am 42 years later.

What stood out that first year?

It was a six-month deal. If they liked me after six months, they'd keep me. It was an open deal. They needed somebody. They got some young guy cheap. We had a real good draft and then they signed me to a contract.

At the time, were you still pursuing television?

I was pursuing both avenues. I had some offers to go as an assistant coach in college when I graduated. ... Then I was introduced for Wide World of Sports ... as a production assistant and [was among] the last five. I was just like anybody who graduated from college. I was looking to get a job and looking to get into the workforce and I had basketball and I had television on the other hand.

So, you were mentioning earlier, you're the longest-tenured assistant coach in the NBA [42 years]. What has that meant to you?

It's really gone by fast. What's it mean to me? I don't know. I haven't really had time to think about it. I've enjoyed working. I met great people and have been under Hall of Fame coaches and have been under Hall of Fame basketball players. It's been a dream come true. I've learned from all of them starting way back when when my first coach was Alex Hannum. He was a Hall of Fame basketball coach. ... He first started forming me in basketball.

Frank 3What did you get out of your head coaching experiences with Milwaukee [took over for Del Harris after 27 games and went 23-42] and the Lakers [took over for Rudy Tomjanovich after 43 games and finished 10-29]?

It's a hard job to do. I don't think I gained anything out of those experiences. But it's just something that had to be done. It's easier to get rid of the head coach. I stepped in and it's hard to do without the benefit of training camp and setting a foundation for the season. You have to go with what you've been doing and then make subtle changes.

How did you handle that?

You rely on your assistants to help you, and you just handle the best you can, try to reason with the players and tell them this is the situation and we have to somehow pull it together and get the job done. Then you see if you can get the job done.

At one point in Milwaukee, you said as soon as you started, the team would have to be extremely competitive for the remainder of the season for you to stay. When you're battling upstream, what measures of progress do you aim for?

Bottom line in this league, it's winning and losing. In both situations we lost. Most of the time you lose as an interim coach when you take over. Things aren't going well, and players have a tendency to see a lame-duck coach or an interim coach as one that won't be around next year. They get a little selfish and play more individually than having the team attitude. Then things kind of go haywire.

You said you didn't gain anything out of head coaching, but did it change your view or interest in that field?

It didn't change at all. With my career path, people labeled me as an assistant coach in this league. So be it. I had a great run -- 42 years. It's like living a dream.

What have been the highlights of that run?

It took me 20 years to win a championship. Now I've been a part of eight championship teams. I'm thankful to Phil for hiring me in Chicago [1996-98] and hiring me in Los Angeles [in 1999]. To be a part of this staff, it's really made my career.

-- Mark Medina

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Photos, from top: Frank Hamblen has the longest tenure of any assistant coach in the NBA. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times. Photo: Lakers coaches Jim Cleamons, Brian Shaw, head coach Phil Jackson, Frank Hamblen and trainer Gary Vitti during a 2009-10 regular-season game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times. Hamblen coaches the team during a regular-season game in the 2004-05 season for an ill Rudy Tomjanovich, who eventually resigned. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (31)

The comments to this entry are closed.

FCM- you need to remove ouchhhh and his personal attacks. again.

Hamblen is deginitely a good offset to Phil. He obviously likes the x's and o's and that's his forte.

It's like any job - some guys are good as #2 and some are good as the leaders.

I'm glad he's on our team!

FCM: if he covers the Greenies - a good follow-up question would be: his perspective on losing the championship in 2008 to #16 last season.

Cheers - PLG


Posted by: Are You Serious?!




MM, nice article. Frank strikes me as being the "designated DFish" of Phil's coaching staff, the role-player, stabilizer, and facilitator of the irrepressible Kobe-Phil. Phil obviously uses the same strategies in assembling his coaching staff as he does in assembling his team. Very interesting.

After the bench, he can move over to the mic.

Frank's got a baritone that rivals Lawrence Tanner.

Last night was FUN, long as we won...

That's 'bout as good as GS has to offer. Chalk the TOs up to the b 2 b.

2 great games in a row showing how diverse we know the team is.

Meanwhile, still waitin' on the sky hook from AB.

Are you serious?

I even don’t know why I’m even bothered to respond to you. Based on humongous quantities of your posts you don’t strike me as someone who can post something that even remotely can be called intelligent post. I’m, and I sincerely hope the vast majority of the bloggers here, first and foremost fan of LA Lakers, and only after that fan of Kobe. So, in my eyes, no one, including Kobe, above fair criticism when they failed. Just a simple reminder, about yesterday game. Who kept Lakers within a striking distance in 1st half? Pau… Who started the run in the 4th? Lamar by scoring 16 points on variety of moves. Yes Kobe, the ultimate closer in the game, will Lakers to win this game at end of the 4th. At the same time Kobe was responsible for almost half of the Lakers turnovers, and if you watched the game, GS scored plenty of points on the fast breaks. In addition Kobe, so as LO and others left plenty of times wide open guy they suppose to guard just to discover later “hey those dudes can shoot”. This was a collective team effort, and I had a mixed taste in my mouth after the game basically coming to one conclusion – Lakers new and supposedly improved defense still pretty far from being a finished product and still required a lot of work, especially when Lakers will hit toughest part of the schedule.


Via NBA Pass I watch a few Sacramento Kings games. Their announcer (I forget his name) has a pet phrase he loves to exclaim when a particularly outstanding play is accomplished by the Kings.


It always makes me laugh, but it also is true 99% of the time. During the game last night, especially that amazing 4th quarter, after several plays I could almost hear that phrase!

If you did not enjoy that game last night ~ for the pure joy of basketball entertainment ~ then you don't like NBA basketball!

Gotta stop and smell the roses sometimes... PLEASE.

Thanks for the interview with Hamblen. A key, unsung player in our five titles here.

Alex Hannum was a great coach. First to get Wilt to play more of a team-oriented, defense-oriented style and win a title. Part of the Sam Barry, USC trained trio of coaches who had so much influence on the NBA - Hannum, Sharman, Winter.

Interesting piece about Hamblen. I didn't know he went to Syracuse.

phred - I took care of them

phred - I took care of them

Posted by: Mark Medina


So it was written, so it shall be done.



This was a nice read.

As a lakerholic, I appreciated this early morning shot of lakerhol.

Wow, this is exactly why I go to this blog. New info you do not get elsewhere.

Let's continue good habits with the Nets and then on to the next one.

1,2,3, Ring

Good learning a little more about Coach Hamblen. I wonder if the Asst coaches keep record to see which of them have the best record with their assigned teams. The Lakers have done very well against kudos to coach Hamblen for his preparation.

@LakerMike - That Sacramento announcer is Grant Napear. He's a true homer, but I do love that phrase also.

I miss Kevin Calabro, the old Supersonic announcer. He was my favorite. I saw him on a few ESPN games last year, but I haven't seen him this year.

MM - I like these coaches interviews. Not as much as the last two games, but still.... Excellent pieces.

Great game, better KARMA!!! Maybe LaFraud should THINK before he speaks. It does come back and BITE ya!! Nice to see the Clips pull it out...{What can you say about Lamar? AllStar}!!! :<} Well, UTZ made it back, next... Mamba24! Thanks to Lewstrs for his Bandwagon's, and please don't stop, you're doing great. Mamba24..I'll being cheering for your Bears this weekend with or without you.

888 - What happened to Pearson's defense...110 points allowed...lmao

MM - kudos on another outstanding, interesting read. This feature is one of my fav's that you've introduced. Great idea!

GREAT game last night. Wow - so amazing to see individuals go crazy at different points of the game to keep us in it. And Kobe - what can you say about the Black Mamba? His eyes - esp in the 4th - were focused, unblinking, deadly. Someone said like a shark. I have to agree - the goal was in sight, and nothing was going to deter him from working to us the W. NO SYMPATHY.

And Baby Brother did us a solid last night too!! I didn't see any of that game, but I'm sure they'll replay it. Nothing like some instant karma to get you...


hi jamf! i'd have to disagree. kobe blinks. chuck norris doesn't blink. BUT THE TEETH!! THE TEETH!!

Hey, Hamblen just about never gets attention for anything, so it's nice to see him get a little bit of spotlight. On the other hand, I sort of had to force myself to read this, as Frank Hamblen just seems really stable and um, unexciting. Glad I stuck with it, as I begin to gain a deeper understanding of how this 'Cuse good ol boy network is doing here.

Also, thanks FCM for cracking down on the pest problem. I'm starting to get more of a 'restraining order' vibe than a comment ignoring one.

888 - What happened to Pearson's defense...110 points allowed...lmao

Posted by: LEWSTRS | January 13, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Wasn't Drew Pearson a Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys in the 70's and early 80's? I didn't know he played defense. But I nitpick AND I kid! At least I don't nitpick and misrepresent, if you know what I mean.

No, silly, it wasn't the failings of Chuck Person's new defense last night that allowed 110 points; this time it was all on Andrew Bynum. Weren't you watching? Yeesh.

Great game. Kobe and Lamar were spectacular in the fourth quarter, but it was Derek Fisher's defense on Stephen Curry that won the game .

@888 LOL...AB is weak...Kobe is the only reason the Lakers are anything...(SF)


I agree cold blooded. It was a great game! LO was outstanding when we needed him to be. Pau was outstanding to start the game. And the mamba is showing that he's rounding into form, he's getting healthy. Bynum is growing into a real beast. The playoffs are going to be awesome!

Six turnovers, so what! 39 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the jello's jiggling 3 pointer in the face of Monta was worth the price of admission!

I love my team and I love our ballhog!

Go Lakers!

MM - thanks for cleaning house. Glad you got your stash of Troll-B-Gone stocked back up.

@JAMF - My supply was running low so I had to go out for a bit to stock up. Hope it works..

@phred - Sorry for boring you to death with the Q&A.......

Fan - yup. That 3 he nailed in Monta's face was a true thing of beauty.

The team is gelling, learning, focusing, healing....we're gonna be SCARY good soon enough. Just watch.

MM. I would also like an apology for being bored to death... lol. kidding. From the title it seemd like it may be boring, but it actually was a really good piece.

Ron's confidence couldn't be higher. After all that smack talk he's taken and will continue to take, doesn't shake him, not at all. 10 points, 7 assists, nice activity.

Anyone who watched the whole game; Ron was playing smooth, whenever Kobe or Pau is at the top of key and Ron cuts to the high post, is a great play, Ron flashes to the high post, takes it to the whole or waits for Pau or Drew to set up on the low block. He's making that hockey pass, and did anyone see Mamba tell Ron, 'when you get, just shoot it, just shoot it.' Confidence Mamba has in Artest with that Dagger 3, which has become one of Ron's specialties over his career.

There are some who say that a coaching staff can do only so much because they don't shoot the ball or defend. There are others who agree that regardless of the high level of talent, you cannot win a championship in the NBA without a brilliant head coach. Part of executing your job as a head coach is to surround yourself with diverse, brilliant basketball minds. Phil Jackson's coaching staff has been with him for a very long time. He divvies up the games and assigns them to his assistants to scout and formulate game plans. With the exception of the recently added Chuck Person, who Phil has great praise for, his staff has been with him for a long time. Frank Hamblen is a link to the Lakers organization whose wisdom has served Phil Jackson well over the years. He is part of the fabric of this great Lakers team and an asset to the genius of Phil Jackson, a master delegator.

As bizarre as this may sound, one of the most unique features of attending Lakers games that I enjoy is watching Phil Jackson huddle with his assistants during timeouts while the Lakers players discuss among themselves what is happening on the court. Frank Hamlen is in every one of those huddles. Then Phil talks to his players for about 15 seconds to impart a few words of wisdom or to tell them what play to run, whatever the case may be. On the other hand, when I look over at the visitors bench, there's the head coach spending every precious moment with his players. It's one of the reasons why I love this game.

@JAMF.....Don't know if you have read it but there is a good article in the Orange Co. Reg. by Kevin Ding. "Black Mamba's Swan Song" Kobe says "Not yet":} Also, I'm glad they got all the drama out of the way and now they can concentrate on the BIG picture in June.

Another great interview- I loves these! Keep em coming!

Kobe is baaaack! Last night, he reminded me, and the Warriors, why he is the best player in the world. The dude has icewater in his veins. You know when the extended jaw and teeth come out, it's go time and there's no stopping him!

I really enjoyed last night's game. It was the most exciting game of the season. Both teams wanted it badly. Both teams were hustling on defense. Both teams were making big shots downd the stretch(don't forget about Ron's big three).

Let's keep it rolling!



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