The search for the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers last just about the whole weekend, but L.A. has finally come to a decision on who will lead this team into the future. After much speculation that Phil Jackson would return and bring back the zen, it’s instead former Suns and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni that has been hired and will begin the new week as the Lakers new coach.
D’Antoni had knee surgery at the beginning of the month and still hasn’t been cleared for travel, so the welcoming comittee still has a few days to plan a party, but by the end of the week — as soon as the middle of the week actually– D’Antoni will be in Los Angeles to begin his coaching duties of the now 3-4 Lakers.
According to those who were close to the situation, the deal with D’Antoni picked up a ton of speed late in the night on Sunday, and the terms were all but agreed upon before the Lakers finished their victory against the Kings.
Many Lakers fans will actually wake up on Monday a little bummed that the news they’d been hearing all week of a triumphant return for Phil Jackson is not going to happen. It will be the classic case of the rich spoiled kid crying about how he wanted a BMW not a Mercedes. All signs pointed to (or at least heavily hinted at) a return to L.A. for Jackson, but he wasn’t just going to thank the Lakers for asking him to come back without making some demands.
Those demands ended up being what tore the deal apart between Jackson and the Lakers. All along it had been reported that Phil Jackson wanted total control of the Lakers on and off the court, something Jerry Buss was not too keen on giving Jackson. Not only that, Jackson wanted to hand pick his successor, only travel to select road games and wanted to get paid anywhere between $10-$15 million dollars annually.
D’Antoni just wanted to coach again.
Obviously D’Antoni didn’t beg the Lakers for the job, nor did he take it without working some things out. But he clearly wasn’t up to the diva-ish ways Jackson has been known to, and the lakers ended up liking D’Antoni more as their head coach than they did Jackson.
For starters, Jackson wanted out, and was really only coming back to do the Lakers a favor and take home a fat pay check. D’Antoni has a fire in his belly and wants to win. He was pushed out of Phoenix and he was pushed out even more so in New York. He’s never won a title, he’s never played for a title and he’s aiming to add his name to the list of player in L.A., like Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, who are also looking for that title.
Nash and D’Antoni go back to their days in Phoenix, which bodes well for the continuity and the transition from Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni. There’s no saying this will work, but D’Antoni was the best available option that was realistic. Jerry Sloan would have been nice, so would have going in a time machine back to 1992 and convincing Michael Jordan to play for L.A.
The Lakers have their coach and they’re out of excuses. This needs to work and it needs to work now or the knee-jerk fans in Los Angeles and the over zealous analysts at ESPN will start this ship right back on fire just as quickly as it has been put out.