Frank Hamblen, longtime Lakers and Phil Jackson assistant, dies at 70

Frank Hamblen watches the Lakers defeat the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 1, 2005, during his second game as interim coach.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Lakers coach Luke Walton smiled as he remembered former Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen before the Lakers began their preseason schedule.

“Frank would be pissed off at me for even talking about him right now because that’s who Frank is,” said Walton, who was drafted by the Lakers in 2003 and played there until 2012. “He loved basketball. He loved life. He always had fun. He always had a quiet remark to tell you.

“I was laughing about it with [Lakers associate head coach] Brian Shaw, I’ve got a lot of good Frank stories but most of them I can’t share to the media because frank had a way with words. He’ll be dearly missed across the NBA.”


Hamblen, who won seven championships as an assistant coach to Phil Jackson in Los Angeles and Chicago, died Saturday in Del Mar, the Lakers said. He was 70. No cause of death was announced.

Hamblen was a Lakers assistant coach from 1999 to 2011. He worked for Phil Jackson for most of that time, helping the Lakers to championships in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. He remained on the staff for the brief period between those championships under Rudy Tomjanovich. Hamblen also spent three seasons with Jackson in Chicago, from 1996 to 1999, winning championships in 1997 and 1998.

“Thank u Coach Frank for your deep understanding of the game, your patience & for challenging me to defend @ the highest level,” retired Laker great Kobe Bryant said on Twitter. “I will miss u.”

Hamblen spent 42 years as a coach in the NBA and ABA, starting in 1969. He was an assistant with for the San Diego Rockets in 1969, then moved with the team to Houston in 1971 and remained until 1972.

Hamblen coached on the staff of the ABA’s Denver Rockets from 1972 to 1977. Hamblen also coached for the Kansas City and Sacramento Kings from 1977 to 1987, then was a top assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks from 1987 to 1996.

A member of the Indiana sports Hall of Fame, Hamblen was born in Terre Haute, Ind. He played basketball at Syracuse from 1966 to 1969.


8:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with details and quotes.

This article was originally published at 2:45 p.m.