Like a last minute surge in a 400 meter race, Mike D’Antoni surpasses Phil Jackson, and becomes the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers late Sunday night.
D’Antoni signed a 3-year deal reportedly worth 12 million dollars, with the fourth year being a club option. The Lakers will hold an introductory press conference either Tuesday, or Wednesday to officially introduce D’Antoni as the Lakers new head coach.
It was such a shocker, that not only did it surprise everyone, it even stunned Phil Jackson’s camp.
After Brown was fired last Friday morning, multiple reports surfaced that Jackson was not only the leading candidate for the job, but it basically was his to turn down, as weekend meetings were held as more of a forgone conclusion to iron out the fine print detail of the alleged deal that was on the table.
But with reports of travel limitations (due to health concerns), and Phil wanting money similar to his prior two stints with the organization, as well as roster control, Dr. Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak felt like they wanted to go in another direction.
I’m not buying that notion, but I’ll explain later.
D’Antoni, originally placed 2nd on their short list of candidates, had a phone interview with the Lakers on Saturday that reportedly went well. D’Antoni who is coming off of knee replacement surgery, was originally scheduled to be unavailable for six weeks, but said if he was chosen he would be available in 10 days to two weeks.
Well Mike, Laker Nation and the Laker team will see you in about two weeks then.
Notably happy for D’Antoni’s hiring was point guard Steve Nash, who won two league MVP’s under him.
“Obviously I think everyone knows how much I love Mike,” Nash said Sunday night prior to the hiring. “If (D’Antoni) were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”
Kobe Bryant, who after Friday’s win over the Golden State Warriors during his post-game conference was chomping at the opportunity to play for Phil once again (displeased with how Jackson’s last year with the Lakers ended), seemed very pleased with the hiring of D’Antoni as well.
“I love PJ but I’m very excited about D’Antoni,” Bryant told ESPN early Monday.
As the pundits have already started to question the D’Antoni hire, it somewhat segues into why he shouldn’t have been chosen over Phil, but why he was eventually chosen over Jackson.
D’Antoni’s rise to coaching fame is his exciting “shoot it in seven seconds or less” style of play on offense. And while his teams have scored a ton of points, they have never been considered great defensive teams (maybe barely good for that matter), and he’s never won any NBA championships. So you have to ask yourself, why was he better suited for this job over Phil?
In my belief, it’s the organization’s way of trying to completely rid themselves from the “ghost of Phil” and the “Triangle Offense” for good. Neither Buss, Dr. Jerry or Jim, has ever really been a fan of Phil’s system, they just dealt with it because of the end result, which was a number of championships, five to be exact. Also, with Phil wanting “Phil money”, which was somewhere between 6-10 million per year, and personnel control, I don’t think the Buss’s wanted to go through that head butting process again. By hiring D’Antoni, they’re implying that they can win without Phil, and as of right now, I don’t know if I can believe that because it remains to be seen.
On a side note, the Lakers move to 2-0 with “Life after Brown” under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff , as they defeated the Sacramento Kings (minus Demarcus Cousins and first round draft pick, Thomas Robinson due to suspension) 103-90 to get their first winning streak of the season.
Whether this could be a version of “Showtime 2″, or another questionable hire for the Lakers organization, the drama of being Hollywood’s team alone, will make for another compelling season for everyone in Lakerland.
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Written by Arthur Kai