Early Monday morning, the basketball world found out that the struggling Lakers decided to sign Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach. Let me start by saying that the Lakers interim head coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, is 2-0 since the firing of Mike Brown and I think Bernie deserves a couple of more games to prove whether or not he can manage this juggernaut team. That being said, D’Antoni has been chosen as the Lakers front office’s first pick to fill the coaching void and now there is some questions and controversy surrounding their decision. Once Brown was fired, everyone in the world thought that the Zen Master himself would retake the helm and lead this team to his twelfth Championship ring. Well, Phil Jackson is still jobless and Mike D’Antoni is about to lead an ideal lineup for any coach in the league, but is this decision the right choice?
Obviously, as a Knicks fan I have my extreme skepticism’s about D’Antoni’s coaching ability. This is a guy who has made it abundantly clear over his two decades as an NBA coach, that he has no regard whatsoever for the defensive end of a basketball game. Sure, Mike won Coach of the Year for his 2004-2005 season managing the Phoenix Suns to their first year of relevancy since the days of Charles Barkley, but he did so by leading the league in scoring and he also had a PG named Steve Nash, in his prime might I add, on his way to his first of two NBA MVP’s. Don’t get me wrong, I think that D’Antoni is one of the smartest offensive basketball minds to ever grace the hardwood, but if you are a true NBA fan, you know that Championships are not won on the offensive end.
When there became a vacancy in the Lakers head coaching position, everyone’s first thought was that Phil was going to come back to help Kobe match the six rings he helped put on Michael’s hands. Even Kobe addressed the media saying how he thought “he never truly gave Phil a quality farewell season”. The Staples Center roared with chants of “We Want Phil! We Want Phil!” The only problem with that thought was no one thought Phil was going to want to come back to the NBA so soon; only 1 year removed from retirement. The Lakers front office, The Buss family and Mitch Kupchak, visited Phil early Saturday morning and after some short talks, Phil was under the impression that he would have until today to work out the kinks and make his decision. Well Phil, you snooze you lose!
Having found out about D’Antoni’s hiring yesterday, Phil told the media, “No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to the that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.”
First off Phil, there is no way that the Lakers thought Mike was “the best coach” for the job. The way I see it is that Phil, in the final seasons of his coaching career, was very high maintenance with his restrictive traveling schedule and constant health issues. Mike, on the other hand, will be the perfect puppet for Jerry Buss to bounce on his knee and do whatever it is he wants done with his team. D’Antoni doesn’t have the type of pull that Jackson would demand and that is a lot more comforting for Kupchak and the Buss family. The truth of the matter is that D’Antoni and Phil can not even be mentioned in the same sentence when referring to their coaching abilities. Phil is arguably the greatest coach there ever was and Mike D’Antoni is just eh. D’Antoni has had a couple of successful regular seasons under his belt and he has proven that he can match anyone’s offense output, but the Lakers always make the playoffs so the regular season is not their problem. They need to win once in the postseason and Mike has proven time and again that he can not coach in the playoffs.
I do understand the signing of Mike though. He obviously has a report with Nash and when Kobe was growing up in Italy, D’antoni was his favorite player to watch. Add that to the fact that Mike coached both Dwight and Kobe on multiple Olympics teams and you have a coach who has pretty good chemistry with his core players. Kobe even went on to post on his Facebook page, “It’s been a wild week to say the least. I’m happy to have closure and can’t wait to get to work with Coach D’Antoni.. spacing, ball movement. And despite the chatter, I believe we will be phenomenal defensively. I’m looking forward to getting started with him and his staff this week. Mamba out.” Phenomenal defensively? I doubt it.
I honestly feel that anyone with the slightest bit of basketball knowledge can coach this Lakers team to the NBA Finals because of how talented their roster is. There was so much fuss over their 1-4 start, but lets not forget that the Miami Heat started with a 9-8 record when they first joined Lebron-Wade-Bosh. Chemistry takes time and I can assure all of the doubters out there that the Lakers will be a force to recon with for the rest of the season. As to whether or not Mike was the right choice to lead them to their successes, well that’s just something we will have to wait and see.