Nov 12, 2012, 3:47 AM EDT
At Staples Center Sunday night, it felt around the Lakers and their fans that anyone not named Phil Jackson as the next coach was going to be the consolation prize.
If so, this is a pretty darn good one.
Mike D’Antoni has signed a contract and has been announced as the Lakers new coach with a press conference in the next couple of days, a story first broken by Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times and now confirmed by the Lakers themselves. He takes over for Mike Brown, who lasted just five games into this season (1-4 record).
D’Antoni and the Lakers have agreed to a three-year deal for $12 million. Those three years is coincidentally is how long Steve Nash‘s contract is for (or, maybe not so coincidentally).
When D’Antoni takes over the team remains a question — he had knee replacement surgery three weeks ago and is not terribly mobile yet. It is expected Bernie Bickerstaff will remain as interim coach through Tuesday when the Lakers play the Spurs, which would give D’Antoni a couple of practices before a first game as coach. Against the Suns, Friday at Staples Center. (Don’t be shocked if Bickerstaff coached that one, too.)
There is a lot of spin as to why things didn’t work out with Phil Jackson. Some sources say he was asking for too much money, too much latitude with time off to make the team comfortable, and he wanted a year-to-year deal while the team wanted more stability — Jim Buss (who runs the team for his father Jerry) turned to D’Antoni.
Both the Lakers and Jackson’s people have denied this is a money issue and have said they had not even started serious negotiations yet. The Lakers are saying this is purely a basketball decision.
Which is not going to sit well with Lakers fans.
Buss made the call Sunday and Kupchak called Jackson to let the Lakers know of franchise’s decision (it was expected Jackson was going to take the job Monday but negotiations were ongoing).
Mike D’Antoni signed a four-year deal with the Lakers. Phil Jackson was “asking for the moon,” accoring to source familiar w/ the situation.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 12, 2012
Laker spokesman John Black: “Dr. Buss, Jim Buss + Mitch were unanimous that Mike D’Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time.”
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 12, 2012
This is not going to be loved by Lakers fans, who had chanted “we want Phil” during the Lakers win over the Kings Sunday. The fan base seemed to have their hearts set on Jackson, while D’Antoni does not have rings or a reputation as a defensive guru.
D’Antoni is a 10-year head coach in the NBA who, combined with current Lakers point guard Steve Nash, ran one of the most potent offenses the NBA had ever seen with his “seven seconds or less” system. In New York with the Knicks he tried to implement that same system but the roster never really fit it, particularly once Carmelo Anthony arrived and was a ball stopper on the wing. Plus, the Knicks never defended for him (at least before Mike Woodson arrived).
The Lakers roster is older, slower and D’Antoni is going to have to modify his system some to make it work. But he has Nash and a potentially devastating pick-and-roll partner in Dwight Howard. Plus there is Kobe Bryant, who is a big fan of D’Antoni (remember Kobe lived in Italy in his youth when D’Antoni was the biggest star in the Italian league).
Kobe said after the Lakers game Sunday he had told management he would be happy with D’Antoni, and reaffirmed that later to the media.
He better, D’Antoni is the Lakers coach now no matter what Kobe thinks.
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