Lakers coach Jim Cleamons watches the team practice a day before the 2009… ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Within a one-year span, Jim Cleamons went from serving as an assistant to the NBA's most accomplished coach in Phil Jackson to suddenly looking for work.
He spent this summer coaching Zhejiang Guangsha of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), but he doesn't plan on returning.
"One of the reasons the Chinese job was intriguing to me is the season is over with and I have this opportunity to look, secure and interview maybe at the collegiate level," said Cleamons, who coached former New York Knicks forward Wilson Chandler. "I'm still hopeful and optimistic that may happen."
Cleamons was at an event Thursday at a Manhattan Beach hotel commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Lakers' 1972 championship team. Though he was seen talking extensively with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Cleamons said he hasn't followed the Lakers at all this season. He still checks in with Jackson, but has avoided contact with his former players. He maintained that points to wanting to spend time with his family, including his wife, Cheryl, and two daughters, Imani and Rose.
Cleamons worked as an assistant for Jackson in all five of his championship seasons with the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010). He had been on Jackson's staff with the Chicago Bulls (1989-1996), and was a part of four of Jackson's six NBA title runs there. And Cleamons also briefly worked with former Laker Byron Scott for two seasons (2004-06) with the New Orleans Hornets. His sole NBA head-coaching experience happened with the Dallas Mavericks, where he finished with a 24-58 record in the 1996-97 season and 28-72 overall before being fired 16 games into the 1997-98 campaign. He also coached in college at Youngstown State from 1987 to 1989.
His stint in China further validated to Cleamons that he's fit to remain in coaching, assuming he finds a job somewhere.
"If I can coach other players from different cultures, including a language barrier, I can coach the game of basketball," Cleamons said. "I feel very secure in my abilities to teach."
Cleamons was drafted by the Lakers in 1971 and was apart of the team that won an NBA-record 33 consecutive games.
He is most known for being Phil Jackson’s right-hand man with the Chicago Bulls and, of course, being on the bench for all five championships that Jackson won with the Lakers.
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