D’Antoni says the Lakers are built to win
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The new Los Angeles Lakers coach, after a drawn-out interview and hiring and travel and indoctrination process that lasted six days, finally held a practice with his new team Thursday and finally answered questions from the gang of media that will now cover him.
And earlier reports are true. He is not Phil Jackson.
Mike D’Antoni, signed to a three-year, $12 million contract to the surprise and consternation of many Lakers fans who had initially been led by media reports to believe the job was Jackson’s if he wanted it, called himself lucky and prepared and appreciative and “rarin’ to go.”
And, he said, fully aware of the hot seat he just inherited, what with Lakers fans chanting “We Want Phil” at home games after a 1-4 got previous coach Mike Brown fired.
“I feel great about the possibilities and I’ll do everything in my power to make it a good decision,” D’Antoni said before a large media gathering Thursday afternoon after holding his first practice at the Lakers’ training facility. “I can understand all the stuff that went on. Phil was a great coach. He is a great coach. He’ll always be a great coach.”
Great enough in the minds of some people that they are not quite ready to accept D’Antoni’s hiring and move on.
One of them is Magic Johnson, arguably the greatest Laker legend of them all, the point guard for five Showtime NBA titles in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, Johnson tweeted, “The reason I haven’t tweeted in 2 days is because I’ve been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach.”
On Wednesday night, on his ESPN TV show “NBA Countdown,” Johnson pointed his criticism at Jim Buss, Lakers vice president and son of owner Jerry Buss.
“I love Dr. (Jerry) Buss. I don’t believe in Jim Buss,” Johnson said. “He’s made two critical mistakes already . . . First, hiring Mike Brown, he wasn’t the right coach . . . And … [For more on Mike D'Antoni says the Lakers are built to win this year, click here.]