Kobe Bryant on Mike D'Antoni's Lakers resignation: 'Honestly, I didn't care'
During an appearance on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live on Thursday, Kobe Bryant approached the resignation of former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni with complete detachment.
"Honestly, I didn't care," Bryant said when asked about D'Antoni's decision to accept a buyout, per ESPN LA. "Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here. This is a tough place, man. If you're not winning, you're not going to survive, man."
It's strange to think that, back in 2012, part of the appeal for the Lakers in hiring D'Antoni as head coach in the first place was his relationship with Bryant. Since then the two pushed through a disappointing first season together and a disaster of a second year, both marred by injury throughout the Lakers roster. As those circumstances deteriorated so too, apparently, did their relationship, to the point that Bryant reportedly had "no interest" in playing for the then-incumbent D'Antoni in the 2014-15 season. On April 30, the Lakers announced that D'Antoni had resigned despite having one year remaining on his deal. Yahoo! Sports reported that one of the motivating factors involved in D'Antoni's decision was the Lakers' reluctance to make any commitment as far as the 2015-16 team option on D'Antoni's contract. Rather than play out the year as a lame duck coach to see where it led, D'Antoni agreed to a $2 million buyout and the chance to pursue a new opportunity with another team.
Since D'Antoni's resignation, names like Chicago's Tom Thibodeau, current TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr and Connecticut men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie have been linked to the Lakers via rumor. Kimmel asked Bryant whether the Lakers consult him in the process of hiring a head coach. "On the last two they didn't," Bryant said. "On the third one, I'm hoping they do."
That may well have been the case with Mike Brown, who lasted all of five games as Lakers coach after being signed to a four-year deal. Bryant's portrayal of the selection of D'Antoni, though, runs in pretty direct contradiction to what he told reporters at the time. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA, circa Nov. 2012:
"I spoke with Jimmy (Buss) before everything went down and we talked about some of the coaching candidates and stuff and to be honest, I said D'Antoni was my first choice because I didn't even know Phil was going to be an option," Bryant told reporters after Tuesday's shootaround, recalling his conversation with the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel.
"Then Jimmy was the one that brought up Phil's name," Bryant continued. "I said, 'I didn't even know that was a consideration.' They said, 'Well, it is and we want to know how you feel about it.' I said, 'I love it,' and that was it. So they knew my two guys that I liked and if one didn't work out, obviously with Phil, they knew that they had my approval to pull the trigger on the other one."
More from Bryant's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live:
• On the experience of watching the 27-55 Lakers this past season: "Yeah, it's been highly enjoyable. I mean, I'd rather stay home and eat paint chips."
• On Bryant's relationship with Phil Jackson and his testy basketball encounters with Michael Jordan:
That he did. Back in 2003 -- during Jordan's final season with the Wizards -- Bryant dropped 42 on Jordan in the first half alone on 14-of-19 shooting from the field while making eight of 11 three-pointers. By halftime he had scored just six fewer points than Washington's entire team.
• On the success of the Clippers and Bryant's rooting interests in the playoffs: