Remember when you wanted to ask your dream girl to the dance, but she says she was too busy and turns you down. So, you had to resort to Plan B and settle for your not-so-stunning-but-decent-enough girlfriend to go out with you.
That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers did Sunday when they hired ringless coach Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown after the team couldn’t complete a deal with 11-time NBA championship coach Phil Jackson. D’Antoni is decent coach with a very good reputation around the league. He can certainly coach offense, as his previous teams (the Suns and Knicks) were always near the top in scoring averages. As coach of the Suns, he got to the conference finals twice and was one Robert Horry hip check away from reaching the NBA Finals in 2007.
Despite all those solid credentials, D’Antoni is not Jackson. Not even close. D’Antoni has never gotten past the conference finals and his last few weeks in New York were tumultuous. Defense has never been his forte; that’s why he hired Mike Woodson to be his unofficial defensive coordinator in New York.
The Lakers and D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, confirmed the deal two days after the Lakers fired Brown five games into the season. D’Antoni agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a team option for a fourth season.
Jackson met with Lakers owners Jerry and Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak on Saturday to weigh a return for a third stint in L.A. According to Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski, Jackson wanted to have a greater role in personnel decisions and some allowances in travel. He also reportedly wanted to “humiliate” Jim Buss far more than he wanted to coach the Lakers. Not surprisingly, the Lakers — still one of the proudest franchises in the Association despite all the drama that has surrounded the team the past decade — didn’t give in to Jackson’s power play and moved quickly to D’Antoni.
Lakers point guard Steve Nash enjoyed his MVP seasons under D’Antoni. Nash perfected D’Antoni’s “Seven seconds or less” offensively philosophy, and reuniting with his former coach should re-energize the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer.
Nash was definitely on board with the Lakers’ new hire. The other vote of confidence and thumbs came from the alpha male of the Lakers franchise, Kobe Bryant.
There was no doubt Bryant wished, asked, prodded, and pushed for Jackson to return to L.A. But Bryant won’t object to D’Antoni.
Bryant idolized D’Antoni while growing up in Italy, where D’Antoni was a star player for Olimpia Milano in the Italian pro league. D’Antoni also has been an assistant coach on various U.S. national teams featuring Bryant, including the gold medal-winning squad at the London Olympics.
And most certainly Bryant will embrace D’Antoni’s shoot-first-ask-questions-laker mantra. Kobe finally has a coach who understands his never-ending thirst for shooting and scoring every time the court because that’s what D’Antoni did when he dominated Europe as a player.
The 61-year-old D’Antoni underwent knee replacement surgery earlier this month, and could be physically limited early in his tenure. But the Lakers went through an entire season with a gimpy Jackson in 2010-11 so this won’t be an issue at all — unless, of course, they start losing games.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.