Pressey Family Split in Lakers-Celtics Rivalry

After 66 years, 12 NBA Finals meetings and more than a bit of trash talk along the way, the mutual loathing between the Lakers and Boston Celtics has never been in doubt.

But that doesn’t apply to Lakers assistant coach Paul Pressey, whose favorite player happens to suit up in green and white: his son, Phil Pressey.

“It’s a blessing just to see your son on this level playing basketball,” Paul said before the Lakers’ win over Boston on Sunday. “I’m just happy for him to have an opportunity. That’s exciting as a parent.”

When Paul joined the Lakers’ staff in September, he shrugged off the fact that he and his son would be pitted on opposite sides of the NBA’s most historic rivalry. The elder Pressey — who served as a Celtics assistant from 2004 to 2006 — was simply excited for his son, an undrafted free agent that had signed with Boston just two months earlier.

Likewise, Phil was thankful for the opportunity to carry on the legacy of his father, an 11-year veteran, who was named to three straight NBA All-Defensive teams in the mid-1980s.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Phil, who did not play on Sunday. “It’s kind of surreal because my dad’s played in the NBA, and it’s always been my dream to follow in his footsteps.”

Phil’s path to playing professional basketball began as his father’s was ending. The rookie was born on Feb. 17, 1991, during Paul’s time as a forward for the San Antonio Spurs. Two seasons later, Paul retired and began his coaching career, which eventually landed the Pressey family back in San Antonio from 1994 to 2000.

There, Phil grew up with his future roommate at the University of Missouri: Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers point guard remains close with Phil, whom he refers to as a brother, and remembers how people would react when Paul came to watch the boys play ball.

“I’ve known Phil since I was little back in San Antonio,” Clarkson said. “So I used to see (Paul) all the time, coming to the Little League games that we used to play and stuff like that. … He was out of the league when I was in San Antonio, but he was a legend out there. When he came to the gym, everybody knew who he was.”

Phil and Paul Pressey

As a kid, Phil soaked up as much as he could from the players his dad was mentoring. From shooting hoops with the likes of Tracy McGrady and Al Jefferson to receiving a copy of “NBA Live 2000” from cover athlete Tim Duncan, Phil claims his NBA-centric childhood helped pave the way for his future career.

“I think it was huge for him,” Paul said. “Of all my kids, he’s the smallest of the four (five-foot-11). So he understands what it takes. He understands giving back to the community. He understands character. He understands what it takes to be a pro, working your rear end off every day.”

That understanding stems from Paul’s lifelong influence, but Phil would not receive any aid from his father on Sunday.

Though Paul purposefully did not offer to be L.A.’s scout against the Celtics this season, neither Pressey was willing to dial back their competitive nature once their teams tipped off.

“One: It’s my dad, so it’s already really great,” Phil said. “Then it’s Lakers and Celtics, so that makes it even more so. Words can’t explain.”

While Phil’s team clashed with his father’s on Sunday, Paul’s wife, Elizabeth, was with the rest of the family in Baltimore, welcoming their newborn grandson, Zion. As they congratulated Phil’s sister, Angie, the Pressey kin made it a point to tune into the action back in Los Angeles.

And though he understands that his children’s loyalties likely lean toward their brother, Paul has just one request.

“They root for him probably more than me because he’s on the floor playing,” Paul said. “We’re a close-knit family, and we’re a sports-oriented family.

“I told my wife, ‘His siblings can root for him, but you should root for me.’”