Magic Johnson (left) caught Charles Barkley's ire with his comments on Mike D'Antoni. (Theo Wager/Getty Images)
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni resigned Wednesday after a 27-55 season, the most losses in franchise history. Predictably, some Los Angeles fans celebrated the news, but one high-profile supporter was particularly jubilant.
"Happy days are here again!" Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson tweeted. "Mike D'Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn't be happier!"
Magic's joyous tone over D'Antoni's losing his job seemed off-putting. TNT analyst Charles Barkley challenged Magic's actions Wednesday night on Inside the NBA (via USA Today):
“Magic Johnson’s bigger than that. Magic Johnson’s bigger than that. Listen, Mike D’Antoni is a good coach. They didn’t give him a lot to work with. But Magic Johnson, he’s bigger than that.”
“The Lakers weren’t going to win with Phil Jackson, either, Ernie (Johnson). They don’t have good players. … We know Phil Jackson’s arguably the greatest coach ever. The Lakers don’t have players, Ernie. They’re not a good team. Kobe Bryant is one of the 10 greatest players ever. He’s never going to be what he was. They don’t have good players. I’m not sure if Phil Jackson really wanted that job. The Lakers stink, and they’re going to stink.”
Regardless of D'Antoni's highly scrutinized performance in Los Angeles, Barkley raises some valid points. The Lakers were decimated by injuries this season, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash combining to appear in just 21 games, and D'Antoni was not dealt any favors with the construction of the roster, even if Bryant and Nash had been available.
Johnson's giddy reaction wasn't surprising, given his past criticism of D'Antoni and the Lakers' decision to hire the former Nuggets, Suns and Knicks coach in November 2012. However, as a former part-owner of the club and perhaps its most prominent face, Johnson was criticized for his brash celebration of D'Antoni's exit. As Barkley said, Magic is "bigger than that."
Now that D'Antoni is out, Johnson surely will have a few opinions about potential replacements.