Published November 20, 2014
Hands up if you read this Lakers thing wrong.
After the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown on Friday, everyone with a brain thought the next head coach of the struggling Lakers would be the two-time former head coach, Phil Jackson.
Reports surfaced about some of Jackson's demands. He wanted travel restrictions, loot and a say in personnel. Some reports even said Jackson wanted a stake of the team.
That's not very Zen-like.
Without even waiting to further discuss the job with Jackson, the Lakers, like thieves in the night, released a statement around 1 a.m. PT Monday that the job was Mike D'Antoni's and he got a multi-year contract.
"Lakers spokesman John Black confirmed on Sunday night that the team has signed Mike D'Antoni to a multi-year contract," the release read. "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.
"Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash both expressed support for the idea of playing for D'Antoni, who was Nash's coach in Phoenix when the point guard won consecutive MVP awards in 2005 and 2006."
Most indications showed the problem with Brown was the newly implemented Princeton offense. Lakers brass didn't like it and some places report that Jackson's famed triangle offense was too much like it.
How could Steve Nash work effectively in the triangle? What would happen with Dwight Howard?
All of these reported issues that were raised were enough for the Buss boys and Kupchack to land on D'Antoni.
It's grossly unfair to fire a guy after five games like the Lakers did to Brown. How can a coach reasonably establish a new offensive system, with three new huge contributors (Nash, Howard and Antawn Jamison), in five games? He can't, of course.
Then, throw into the fire the fact that Nash got hurt after 16 minutes of his second game with the team. Brown doesn't deserve to work with his point guard for longer than a week?
This is bad form, but illustrates another problem with the Lakers.
Say what you will about Jackson ("he's front-runner," "it's easy to coach superstars"), but he's the only one who has brought out success in the Lakers. Rudy Tomjanovich won two titles with the Houston Rockets, went to the Lakers and didn't last a season.
Brown's team got creamed by the Oklahoma City Thunder in last season's playoffs. These are two really good basketball coaches and they didn't reach anywhere near the level Jackson did.
Jackson also got more time. I've seen sneezes last longer than Brown's tenure, but if you make the decision to move on, do it quickly.
So how do the Lakers land on D'Antoni?
Based on the press release, it sounds like Nash's success may have played a part. And, again, according to some reports, higher-ups in the Lakers organization didn't think Nash could thrive in the triangle.
Who cares how Nash fits in?
This decision can't be made with Nash in mind. Just can't be done. Nash is 38. This decision needed to be made with Bryant and Howard in mind. Bryant runs this team and Howard is the future.
Both players played in the 2008 Olympics under D'Antoni as an assistant and Bryant did this past summer as well.
The Lakers, still playing the Princeton offense, rank 10th in scoring. They rank 14th in points allowed and here's where the D'Antoni hiring gets really dicey.
D'Antoni's indifference to playing, teaching, coaching or mentioning defense has hurt his teams badly in the past. Reality is, his system of quickly paced offense with a general apathy to defense reminiscent of the Harlem Globetrotters head coach, has never won a thing.
Here's the line that really clinched the bizarreness of this decision:
"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."
Why? How could anyone be a better choice for a team than Jackson? He won 11 NBA titles. That's one more than anyone else in history and 11 more than the guy the Lakers landed on.
Something had to have happened in these negotiations. Does a general manager say, "Let's pass on the most successful coach ever, who has been the only guy to guide our men properly, for the circus?"
Jackson has flaws. He mailed in his final season, the 2010-11 campaign, but the time on his ranch could've rejuvenated him. And, the only players to spend a lot of time under Jackson's tutelage were Bryant and Gasol. It would be a new offense to most and time is ticking on this season already.
This all doesn't add up and it doesn't from the beginning. Why fire Brown so quickly if you didn't have a coach in waiting, like, for example, Jackson? Why does Nash need to be humored so much? Does anyone care about defense or will Howard just stay by the hoop and try to block everything?
These are somewhat valid questions, but the biggest question of all remains.
How is a good offensive coach suddenly a better option than perhaps the greatest coach ever?