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Mike D’Antoni a better long-term choice than Phil Jackson

Nov 12, 2012, 2:44 PM EDT

New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Getty Images

It was certainly a surprise when the news broke late Sunday night that Mike D’Antoni had been hired by the Lakers as their new head coach. The job was believed to be Phil Jackson’s if he wanted it, while a second meeting between Jackson and the Lakers appeared to be in the works, perhaps to finalize all of the details.

But something changed within the Lakers organization, and changed quickly. Whether it was too many demands from Jackson to return — which may have included a request for an ownership stake in the team, as well as the ability to pick and choose which road games he’d travel for — or something else, the team abruptly shifted its paradigm.

While Jackson may have been the popular choice and the one that fans were clamoring for, D’Antoni is the smarter one. The fact is that D’Antoni is a better fit for the long-term plans of the franchise than Jackson would have been, for a variety of reasons.

It’s easy to understand why everyone in L.A. would want Jackson back on the bench. Five championships won with Kobe Bryant for starters, along with a veteran pedigree and vast knowledge of the inner-workings of the Lakers family-run organizational dynamic seemed to make him a logical choice.

But for how long?

This is the problem, and it’s why the Lakers ultimately went with someone else.

For all of Jackson’s successes, let’s not gloss over his failures. When we last saw him roaming the Lakers sidelines, Jackson seemed to lack the necessary passion to get his team to play at the required level in the 2011 playoffs. Dallas swept a Lakers team out of the second round that was favored to win a third straight championship, and did so in fairly humiliating fashion.

The issue with that team, evident to anyone, was its sense of entitlement. Two straight titles had brought an unhealthy mentality that the Lakers would somehow find a way to win games without expending the necessary effort, simply because it had the most talented roster.

Sound like something that might have happened this year, with this team?

Even if Jackson had been able to coach this team to a title, there’s no guarantee he’d stick around to do it again next year. Reports had him wanting to mentor a young coach to hand the team over to after he was done, which may have been Brian Shaw, Scottie Pippen, or someone else.

If that was the case (and another demand in the negotiation process that may have made the organization sour on the idea), there’s no guarantee that Dwight Howard — remember, an unrestricted free agent this summer — would want to go through another coaching change, especially if he was fortunate enough to have already won that ring.

There’s all the talk about the extra millions Howard is eligible for under the collective bargaining agreement if he re-signs in L.A., but for a player with over $100 million in career earnings who might have gotten the career validation that comes with a title, it would be easy to see him choosing somewhere else to play the remainder of his years. That would essentially place the Lakers in a full-fledged rebuilding mode with an aging or perhaps already-retired Kobe Bryant, and would do so with an inexperienced head coach in charge.

Now obviously, that’s a whole lot of future speculation for a team that’s really only focused on winning this season. But there’s no guarantee that would have happened, despite Jackson’s resume.

Mike D’Antoni has relationships with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, and won’t over-complicate the offense. On the defensive end, it’ll be amazing how quickly his reputation there will magically improve with Howard patrolling the paint.

Most importantly, the Lakers get a head coach who’s hungry for a championship, and in it for more than just this season. The same couldn’t possibly have been said with any certainty when considering Phil Jackson.

  1. AlohaMrHand - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Phil’s ego cost him the job.It comes to a point where no matter how great you are you’re arrogance will one day stop being tolerated despite your skills and past performance.

    • davidly - Nov 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM

      Yes and no, Mr Spicoli. He only wanted what guys like Auerbach, West, Riley, and Bird eventually got; a promotion from within. The arrogance was as much, if not more, on the part of Krause, in the nineties, and the junior Buss, now.

  2. libertynchurch - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    “And if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with!”

  3. illcomm - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    so. lakers r win now. they will be killed by spurs or thunder in playoffs without the zenmaster

    • mazblast - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      They got killed in the playoffs vs. the Mavs two years ago WITH the zenmaster.

  4. captainwisdom8888 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    …and the zenmaster fades back into a life of absurdity…and abscurity.

  5. BigBeachBall - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Jim Buss is a long term clown…

  6. tfoz5150 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    What a JOKE!!!

  7. lionsplayoffs - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Oh come on…D’Antoni a better choice? You’re kidding right? That’s the equivalent of saying that you’d rather have Andy Reid take over your football team than Bill Bellichick. I get that Phil Jackson is a jerk and has an ego problem, but the man wins titles. D’Antoni does not. It’s that simple. Did Kobe veto Phil, too?

    • david0303 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:49 PM

      you obviously didn’t read the article, he says long term choice. obviously phil is a better choice for this year but what’s gunna make him want to come back next year and all that commotion could cause dwight to leave. Might as well get a coach that will stick around and has a good relationship with nash and kobe and has proven he can do pretty damn well with nash and a whole lot less than what he has to work with now

      • lionsplayoffs - Nov 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM

        I definitely read the article. Whether it’s short term or long term, wouldn’t you rather win a title? You’re not going to get one with Paul Westhead 2.0. I’ll take the titles, please.

      • lionsplayoffs - Nov 12, 2012 at 6:06 PM

        Plus these Lakers stars aren’t spring chickens. Is there some kind of drafting genius that D’Antoni possesses that no one else has? That’s the only way he’s going to help long term. They should be thinking “WIN NOW.”

      • tfoz5150 - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:08 PM

        Theyre an old team. Who care 4 yrs down the line? Dantonis not going to win you a title anyway.

      • badintent - Nov 13, 2012 at 1:39 AM

        Lakers are old
        Knicks are old,
        Dallas won with “old team ”
        Lakers/Knicks finals. Sheed throwing ups 3’s all night long cause Howard won’t leave the paint. The man is the Terminator 4.0 /Superman.” I’ll be back . ” Out of retirement.

        I’m Phil’s agent and I’m pissed. No fee , no book , no barbies in Montana.

  8. staff2cj - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Nice hire Flakers! The hiring of Phil would have scared me. Now, I can sit back, relax and watch the fun. No title Flakes

    • money2long - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:47 PM

      easy for you to admit that something would have scared you when it didnt happen.
      so it’s safe to assume things that HAVE happened is scaring you, but you won’t admit it just so as to not give laker nation the satisfaction.

      and one of the things that HAS happened that is scaring you is the fact kobe is paired with dwight howard. you fear hat combination, and when it starts to work and click , watch out. until then, keep referring to the lakers as flakers. if that helps qualms your nerves go on ahead.

      i bet if jackson was hired, you would not admit u are scared. u’d probably just go on making absurd claims about how it wont help at all. but since it did not happen, you can come out and say it would have scared you.

      the irony.

      • money2long - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:50 PM

        calm your nerves *

  9. connect2bh - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    A ‘perhaps already retired Kobe Bryant’? Do you watch basketball? If averaging 3rd highest PPG in the league and over 50% from the field for the first time in his career is a potentially ‘already retired’ you should rethink the way you phrase your words because it seems like your exaggerated lurid comments are quickly losing you the trust I have with other writers on this website

  10. bougin89 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Great, but this isn’t a team looking for long term. They are in championship or bust mode. Next year this team only gets older and this roster could be turned completely upside down in two years.

    • mogogo1 - Nov 12, 2012 at 6:34 PM

      Great comment. I don’t get where the “long term” really fits into the discussion with a team that canned their last coach 4 games into the season. If D’Antoni doesn’t win in the short term, he’s gone just like Brown was. They’re not a young team with a huge window that is going to be open for a long time. There are many reasons Buss may have not wanted to hire Phil Jackson, but worries about the long-term should not have been part of the consideration.

  11. paulhargis53 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Where is lakerslurper at? He was bragging on Jackson being the next coach. Another wrong prediction from his cracked magic 8 ball.

    Dumb hire. They don’t have the legs to run his offense, so he’s going to have to modify what he has been coaching for years. Really, really dumb timing on the fire/hire situation.

    I hope Howard walks at the end if the year, it would serve Kobe right.

    This hire WILL NOT lead to a title this year.

    Pretty sure Phil made redonkulous demands on purpose. He doesn’t want to deal with this circus and the expectations of a delusional fanbase.

    He’d if he got all he wanted, but at 67, who needs to deal with the sh*tstorm that is surrounding this team?

    2nd round exit for the 3rd year in a row.

    • loungefly74 - Nov 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      well…everybody thought PJ was going to be the next coach…even PJ himself! reading the many articles…it seemed like PJ was waving his johnson too much in jim buss’s face…and jim didnt like it and said screw you.

      you are right, D’Antoni will have to modify his system for this team. i think the offense will be there but who knows about the “D”…

      Brown lost control/respect of that team. he may be a nice guy but he is at best…an assistant coach. any change was a good change. the timing is bad but better than mid season.

      we will see. it truly is a “Title or Epic Bust” season…

  12. ohnothatguy - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    If phil was as great as everyone thinks he would of went and coached a team like the knicks before the stars came!! Just like red said he cant do it without a superstar on the team. There are plenty of teams that would give phil whatever he wants to coach but he wont go bc he needs the superstars! He is not a great coach. You think spolestra would of won a title without lebron n wade? He would be a mediocre coach at best on a team like golden state minnesota or sacramento

    • conjecture101 - Nov 12, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      did you ever realize Kobe has 0 rings without Phil Jackson. So dig up Red and tell him that Coaches TURN stars into SUPERSTARS. Tracy Mcgrady had more talent than Kobe. Unfortunelty for him he got stuck with stiffs like Jeff Van Gundy. Its a shame aint it?

    • conjecture101 - Nov 12, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      and as far as the Heat. They are the most talented team in the history of sports yet they barely snuck by an Ancient Celtics team with a bunch of bum knees. Do the Math. The Bulls DOMINATED with Jordan, the Lakers DOMINATED with Shaq. Phil makes talent reach its peak. The same can not be said for 100% of the coaches in the NBA. Cry about it.

      • savvybynature - Nov 13, 2012 at 12:15 AM

        Can I agree with both?

        No question having all-time greats to coach like Shaq and MJ will help your legacy, but the fact is he is one of the winningest coaches of all time. You can’t take that away from him because it’s true.

        Can he be slightly overrated but still f–ng awesome?

  13. spthegr8 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    I disagree. Phil was gna have B Shaw with him and he was grooming him to take his sopt when he was done. Shaw should have been hired when Phil left the Laker’s last time. Just Saying!!!!!!!!!

  14. shawnsmith262 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Reblogged this on Sidelined and Fined.

  15. staff2cj - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    this senior citizen team is on decline. The FLakers celebs can not be happy about this.

  16. gopokes0714 - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    next time you have a passing thought about the Lakers, do one of two things:

    save it and combine it with the next irrelevant drivel you put out.


    make a deal with the Lakers and create a separate Laker’s blog like NBC has with Notre Dame. That way LakerLover and the 5 other people that care can get their fill, and the rest of the nation doesn’t have to be subjected to the propaganda.

  17. connaniii - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Probably so, the only thing wrong with his choosing is that the actual Lakers is “not” a long or middle term project…it´s now or never!

  18. pike573 - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Better long term as in he will be there longer, but that’s it.

  19. gopokes0714 - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Everything the Lakers have done over the last 2 years has reeked of desperation. This team is so desperate to be relevant it’s disgusting. The Lakers are just the geriatric version of the Heat.

    How are you going to install an offense to run the court with superstars as old as Kobe and Nash with no bench? The Clippers will go further in the playoffs than the Lakers.

  20. staff2cj - Nov 12, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    Flakes starting to act like Jerry’s kids in Dallas…

  21. conjecture101 - Nov 12, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Brett Pollakoff should be ‘frozen” out of the NBA blogoshphere. The greatest coach in the HISTORY OF SPORTS gets passed up for MIKE D’ANTONI and you say its a GOOD THING. I am sick of “bloggers” not being held responsiple for their BLASPHEMOUS comments. I have nothing personally against Pollakoff and I wish him the best in his future career. But here’s to hoping it wont be in sports writing.

  22. jjpileggi - Nov 12, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Put yourself in the Lakers’s shoes; The team belongs to the Buss family, and while Phil is sort of an in-law, he essentially wants to grab personnel power from his “brother in law”, make a lot of money and decide who will succeed him and mentor the guy. The mentoring is surely admirable, but perhaps not the level of control the Buss family wants to give up. Dantoni was a good guy in New York who endured terrible personnel that was left over from the Thomas disaster, and did what was needed to get under the salary cap. Ultimately, Jim Dolan chose Carmello Anthony over both Donnie Walsh and Dantoni, but it did not lessen the impact of either in reviving the Knick franchise. Dantoni will win in Los Angeles and is a solid choice.

    John Pileggi

  23. lakerluver - Nov 12, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Excellent article. D’Antoni never had a 3 time D.P. of the Y. roaming the middle for him in Phx. The season for the LAKERS begins tomorrow.

  24. paulhargis53 - Nov 12, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    Jesus Christ lakerslurper! How can every single damn thing to do with the Lakers be good?!

    Your pathetic homerism is mind numbing.
    The last few days it was PJ this and PJ that, now D’antoni is the right man for the job. Then, all summer long it was Brown was the greatest.

    You are one pathetic moron. You suck at posting, you suck as a fan, and you suck at life.

    Now hurry up and log out as lakerluver and log back in as bozosforall.

    I can hardly wait for you to regurgitate my insults back at me, call me pudhummer53, and degrade the Celtics by calling them the Puh-c’s.

    I will be soooo glad when June rolls around and you’ll be gone……
    Ah, who the hell am I kidding? You won’t hold up your end. You’re that kind of a sh*tweasel.

    • mytthor - Nov 13, 2012 at 1:01 AM

      Seriously. Get an anger management counselor. Then a life.

      You don’t like the guy, you don’t like the Lakers, and you’re a huge homophobe.


  25. rocirius - Nov 12, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    They should have hired PJ, maybe traded a starter for some good bench players, and gone for a title this year. D’Antoni won’t win a title this year and he’ll be fired.

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