CLEVELAND: A profanity-laced tirade by assistant coach Phil Handy helped inspire the Cleveland Cavaliers to a rout of Golden State and provide a chance to level the NBA Finals on Friday.
Usually mild-mannered Handy, the Cavaliers’ director of player development, ripped into the team after a 110-77 loss Sunday to the defending champion Warriors in game two of the best-of-seven championship series.
Word of the verbal locker room lashing leaked Thursday and was confirmed by Kyrie Irving, who followed a 10-point effort in game two with a 30-point performance in Wednesday’s 120-90 romp that trimmed the Warriors’ series edge to 2-1.
“The speech he gave after game two just really hit home for all of us,” Irving said. “It was a man-to-man speech that needed to be said, that we all understood in order to kind of will ourselves to understand that we still have a chance in this series.”
Handy, an Oakland native, was embarrassed by Cleveland’s flat showing in losing the first two games by a combined 48 points, the most lopsided total in NBA Finals history.
“He was pissed off,” Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson told Cleveland.com. “It means a lot to him. It means a lot to us and for us to go out there and play the way we did was embarrassing.
“Sometimes people step out of their norm and say what they feel needs to be said, and it was definitely something that needed to be said.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Handy told the team “just something we all knew, that we had to play harder, just had to continue to compete for 48 minutes, not one quarter, not a quarter and a half.”
“What he said was right on. And the guys accepted that. They understood it and we just moved on.”
Handy was able to introduce Irving to Kobe Bryant, the superstar Los Angeles Lakers guard who retired two months ago, and help foster a mentor relationship between the legend and the hungry young Cavs guard.
“He’s the one that introduced the relationship I have with Kobe now, which is great,” Irving said.
“He’s just awesome in terms of what he brings to this team, working guys out, making sure guys are professionals every single day.
“In terms of working out late nights and doing whatever it takes to win, learning how to lead, understanding the nuances of the game and what it takes to be a great player, he has really put down the foundation. He been really influential on my life.”