Mike D’Antoni wasn’t people’s choice
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Legions of Los Angeles Lakers fans awoke to their worst nightmare on Monday morning: Their beloved Zen Master would not be returning.
After two days of preparations for the Phil Jackson reunion parade — with Kobe Bryant campaigning, Magic Johnson imploring and widespread reporting that he was the overwhelming favorite to replace Mike Brown, who was fired Friday — in came Mike D’Antoni. As Lakers radio color commentator Mychal Thompson told USA TODAY Sports earlier Sunday, the notion of anyone but Jackson taking over this star-studded roster seemed remote.
“Phil has all the electoral votes from the fans, so it should be a landslide,” Thompson said then. “It’d be like (Walter) Mondale unseating (Ronald) Reagan (in the 1984 election) if Phil is not the coach.”
But D’Antoni is no Mondale, and the Lakers faithful will realize soon enough this just might work.
For starters, he will have support among his constituents. Bryant is a huge fan of D’Antoni’s, having played for him on Team USA and idolized him as a boy growing up in Italy when D’Antoni was a star for Milan. Their relationship is very real and very deep and in stark contrast to the one forced upon Bryant when Brown was hired without him being consulted in May 2011.
Nash is the resident campaign manager, having forged a bond with D’Antoni during their time together in Phoenix that rivals the one between Bryant and Jackson in their later years together. The other most relevant future Hall of Famer, that being center Dwight Howard, is sure to fall for his new coach considering his expertise in the play that the big man is so adept at — the pick and roll — and his easygoing personality that is anti-Stan Van Gundy in every way.
While D’Antoni has as many championships as Brown (none), he is innovative and bold in ways that Brown was never known to be. His vaunted seven-seconds-or-less offense, which was examined wonderfully by Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum in his 2007 book by that name, led to a 232-96 regular season mark (70.7%) from 2005 to 2008 as … [For more on Mike D'Antoni wasn't people's choice, but Lakers will like him, click here.]