Q & A with Lawrence Frank, Clippers president of basketball operations
Here is more wit and wisdom from Frank, 47, the man tasked with leading the Clippers:Q: Why did you stick with basketball after you were cut from your high school team?A: I always loved basketball. As much as I loved playing, I also loved the teaching behind the game, the psychology behind the game, the team-building behind the game, the relationship with players though the game. So, for me, when I was a teenager, I always knew I wanted to coach.Q: How old were you when you went to the Five-Star camp, 17 or 18?A: I was younger than that, 14, 15, 16. One of the most ironic things was I eventually went from going there to just to take notes to getting hired in the canteen. I’m still in high school. One of the years there I was selling T-shirts out of the canteen. One of the campers was a guy by the name of Alonzo Mourning. Fast forward, I’m coaching Alonzo Mourning when I’m in New Jersey.Q: What did you learn from Coach Knight?A: You’re 18 and you think you know a whole lot and you really know nothing. You don’t have that type of self-awareness. The No. 1 thing you learn is humility because it’s like the military being a manager there. You enter at the lowest level and you’re going to have the most menial tasks and you’re expected to execute it with unbelievable attention to detail. So, I would say from work-ethic, trustworthiness, humility, reliability, like, those were all things I learned from my father growing up and then going to Coach Knight, from a basketball sense, all those lessons were reinforced. I always say every opportunity I’ve received from the time I left Indiana, I have to thank Coach Knight.Q: What’s your vision for the Clippers now that Chris Paul is gone in a trade to Houston?A: We wanted to bring Blake (Griffin) back. We look at Blake and D.J. (DeAndre Jordan) as Clippers for life. We wanted to continue to build around Blake and D.J. and build as competitive a team as we could, but also maintain some flexibility in order to give us the best chance as possible, not to be a good for a year or two, but compete for a championship and build a team that is sustainable.Q: What did it mean to sign Blake Griffin to a five-year, $173-million contract last summer?A: It makes him a Clipper for life. He can make his own history here. He can go to other teams and the history has already been made. For us, Blake is a huge part of that. He can own the history here. People can talk about the old Clippers and the new Clippers. We appreciate the players who played in the past. But this is almost like a start-up. It’s like a new beginning since Steve (Ballmer) has taken ownership. Blake signed up. He wants to be part of this.Q: Do you view the Clippers as a new franchise since Steve Ballmer bought the team?A: You can’t hide from what happened in the past, but you have the wealthiest owner in all of sports who is doing whatever it takes to build a championship-driven, world-class, player-centered environment. The guy has a proven track record of leading one of the most powerful companies in the world (Microsoft). He’s great. He’s always available. You always let Steve know in advance.Q: What did it mean to strip Doc Rivers of his front-office duties during the offseason?A: Doc and I are partners. Doc still has a huge voice in what we’re doing. What it allowed us to do is build our infrastructure, where we can attract other “A Level” people who can address some gaps we had in our organization. Between hiring Michael Winger (as general manager), Trent Redden and Mark Hughes (as assistant general managers) and Matt Elijah (as manager of strategic planning) and guys we already had in the organization like (special advisor) Dave Wohl and some of the other people we had, we were looking at putting together a really special team.Q: What kind of direction are you getting from Jerry West, who was hired as a consultant?A: I’m a believer that nothing ever happens just once. With Jerry, you actually have a living history of different situations that have happened to your team. He’s lived it. Instead of studying the history, he is that history. You can pick his brain. Plus, he still loves to watch games. He watches every freakin’ NBA game. He gives you different perspectives. He’s always going to shoot it straight. He’s just an unbelievable resource as a consultant.Q: Everyone is chasing Golden State, how do you avoid being resigned to playing for second?A: You always have to focus on what you can control. Make your team as good as you can make your team. Develop your players, coach them up, and then let the chips fall as they may. You can’t control the other teams. You can’t control what they do. But you can control what you do, the attitude and the approach, and the preparation you put into your craft.Q: You knew Chris Paul’s departure was a possibility, how did you think you fared?A: I think if you look at what we received compared to other franchise players who left, I don’t know if another organization was as fortunate as we were to get what we got in return. Some of these franchise guys left and teams have gotten zero in return. Maybe they got future picks. You also have to include (Danilo) Gallinari in the deal, so we feel really, really fortunate. It was in everyone’s best interest to find a deal that worked. I think the relationship with Chris and with his agents and with Houston, it made sense for them to do a deal. It all came together for us. A potentially really, really tough situation turned into something we feel really good about with the guys we got in return.Q: How did you prepare a plan to replace Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford?A: We go through hours and hours of meetings, but you never know. Literally, 98 percent of the stuff you prepare for will never happen, but that 2 percent, you’ve got to be ready. You have to be so light on your feet. Those decisions have already been made. What happens is you’re trying to take the emotion out of the decision-making in real time. We talked about this. We researched this. We have all the data. We have all the histories. This is the decision we’re going to make. Boom.Q: Have you embraced the new analytics, the fancy stats as a useful tool?A: It’s a weapon. You’ve got to take advantage. Doc takes advantage from a coaching standpoint. Analytics aren’t new, but now they are so much more sophisticated. You and I, we can look at 10 possessions and we can tell what happened. Analytics can look at 10,000 possessions. It may raise an antenna and you can go back and watch the film. Different combinations. You never know. A certain player, if he gets fouled twice in a quarter, how it impacts his aggressiveness to attack the rim. You get so many different queries. It’s a great tool. You have to combine the head, the heart, and you’ve got to put it all together. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Frank left Teaneck, New Jersey, for Indiana University, not as a player but as a student manager. He wanted to learn from the best, he wanted to study under Bob Knight. He could have earned a scholarship as a student assistant coach at another school.Instead, he was a walk-on student manager at Indiana.Marquette coach Kevin O’Neill hired Frank sight unseen in 1992, based only on Knight’s recommendation. Frank later was an assistant at Tennessee and then jumped to the NBA as an assistant with the Grizzlies and Nets. He later was head coach of the Nets and Pistons.Frank worked for Doc Rivers as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics in 2010-11, then rejoined him in 2014-15 with the Clippers. Frank assumed his new position with the Clippers during a summer shake-up in the front office. Frank and Rivers now report directly to owner Steve Ballmer.It’s a unique resume, to be sure. But it’s all Frank’s and he wouldn’t trade it for all the world. The Clippers’ new president of basketball operations never played a single minute in an NBA game. He never laced up his high tops, never pulled on a uniform, never made a pass or a jump shot or grabbed a rebound. He never played in a college or high school game, either.“I was the bad Hollywood actor,” Lawrence Frank joked about his high school non-career during an extended conversation with the Southern California News Group. “The only word I heard was ‘cut, cut, cut.’ Then finally my fourth year, my coach came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got a lot of courage … but I’ve got to let you go again.’”Frank knew from an early age his future in basketball would take him in a different direction. When he was still in high school and shorter than the 5-foot-7 he now stands, he attended the prestigious Five-Star basketball camp, not to play, but to observe the coaches.He took copious notes on what he saw the coaches do and say and filed them away.