Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni as coach, passing on Phil Jackson
By Ben Golliver
The Lakers have bypassed Phil Jackson to hire Mike D'Antoni as their next coach, replacing Mike Brown, who was fired on Friday. The team officially confirmed the hire through through a team spokesman early Monday morning.
Lakers spokesman John Black confirmed on Sunday night that the team has signed Mike D'Antoni to a multi-year contract. The team is expected to have a press conference to announce the deal most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday of the coming week.
According to Black, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak were unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time.
The decision to hire D'Antoni was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Phil Jackson was "asking for the moon," according to a source familiar with the situation. D'Antoni's Lakers contract is three guaranteed years at $12 million. Fourth year is a team option.
Lakers spokesman John Black: "Dr. [Jerry] Buss, Jim Buss + Mitch [Kupchak] were unanimous that Mike D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."
The Associated Press confirmed D'Antoni will receive a four-year contract, citing D'Antoni's agent, Warren LeGarie.
The hire comes after two days of rumors indicating the Lakers and Jackson had mutual interest. On Sunday, it was reported that D'Antoni, along with former Blazers coach Nate McMillan and former Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, were back-up options if the Lakers couldn't bring back Jackson, who has won a record 11 NBA titles as a coach, for his third stint coaching the team. Lakers fans at the Staples Center had also advocated for Jackson's return.
NBA.com reported Monday morning that talks between the Lakers and Jackson broke down over the issue of executive authority.
Phil [Jackson] wanted total control and say over the direction of any franchise he went to, a la [Pat] Riley[in] Miami.
D'Antoni is known for his high-octane approach on offense, dubbed "Seven Seconds or Less" during his time with the Phoenix Suns. He holds a career record of 388-339 (.534) in 10 seasons with the Nuggets, Suns and Knicks, and he guided the Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2006. An assistant coach for USA Basketball, D'Antoni coached Lakers guard Steve Nash for four seasons in Phoenix and has a long-standing relationship with Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Until Brown was fired, D'Antoni had kept a relatively quiet profile since his resignation in March.
"Obviously everyone knows how much I love Mike," Nash said "If he were the coach it would be seamless and terrific for me and for the team as well. These are things that will be decided pretty soon so there's not much point speculating."
"They know how I feel about Phil," Bryant said. "They know how I feel about D'Antoni. I like them both."
Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday that D'Antoni recently underwent knee replacement surgery. As such, it's not yet known when he will be available to coach the Lakers. Lakers assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff was named interim coach when Brown was fired on Friday morning after a 1-4 start. The Lakers are 2-0 under Bickerstaff, with wins over the Warriors on Friday and the Kings on Sunday.