Around 2am last night, I happened to see the ESPN bottom marquee. It read:
“Mike D’Antoni agrees to coach Lakers”
W.T.F. I could not believe what I was seeing.
Initial reactions to this deal from the Laker fanbase has been… let’s see, uhh… extremely negative. Let’s all be real, last night when we went to sleep, everyone was pretty much acting like Phil Jackson was the coach already. I mean, wasn’t it just a mere formality to announce it to the public? He could have probably walked onto that court on Tuesday night against the Spurs and no one would be surprised.
Apparently, the move to hire D’Antoni was a unanimous decision by GM Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss (who makes most of the decisions for the team nowadays, and owner Jerry Buss. According to multiple news outlets, negotiations between the team and D’Antoni occurred late last night, after the Lakers game against the Kings, before they ultimately decided to give him the job.
However, this directly conflicts with reports from Sunday where Phil Jackson met with Lakers management and had until Monday to decide. In a statement released by Phil’s people, he said,
“… we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight 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.”
He concluded by thanking Laker fans, who have been begging for his return, stating,
“I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
What the hell is going on??
Some speculation for the move is that management wants to move away from the Phil era and into a revamped “Showtime,” which could possibly happen considering D’Aintoni’s all-offense-no-defense coaching style. Others yet say that Phil wanted too much from the organization, like ownership stake and travel restrictions. And more say those reports are complete bull.
Player reactions, Kobe and Dwight particularly, have been generally positive, albeit the clear disappointment. Will be interesting as more comes out.