The Los Angeles Lakers and GM Mitch Kupchak didn’t just throw a curveball by hiring Mike D’Antoni, they threw a good ‘ol R.A. Dickey knuckler. There are certainly good reasons to decide against hiring Phil Jackson; health, travel, money, but to choose D’Antoni instead is desperation. Not the Daryl Morey trading for James Harden kind of desperation either, more like taking that crazy girl that has stalked you for three years out to dinner because you haven’t had a date in too long.
D’Antoni is going to have a couple major hurdles to jump before having success in L.A., starting with egos. The most interesting part of this hire is that the reason you hire Phil Jackson, the Zen Master, is the same reason you DON’T hire D’Antoni. The Zen Master can manage the ego of any player in the NBA. D’Antoni got crushed in New York by ‘Melo and a player D’Antoni already coached successfully in Stoudemire. If you can’t manage those egos, how is the most intense competitor of this era and a giant man-child going to treat him? Probably not well. Kobe and Dwight may crush D’Antoni faster than Mike Brown’s defense gave up points. D’Antoni hasn’t produced in the most high pressure situations either, the kind of situations that will be placed on him daily with his great starting five and the L.A. media and fans. They will be happy with nothing less than a 5 game winning streak to start the D’Antoni era.
Magic Mike D’Antoni is widely considered to be an offensive mastermind though, which may be the reason they picked him to replace the offensively inept Mike Brown. D’Antoni gets to work with the man that made him famous, Steve Nash, once he gets healthy, one of the most dominant big men in the league and Kobe, need I say more, at the two. That’s a lot of new toys on offense. If he can get this team to run the floor the way he did in Phoenix, this offense could be scary. Am I talking myself into D’Antoni being a good decision? That’s right, he has to get these players to buy in. Buy in to a coach that has a 26-29 record in the postseason after replacing a man in Mike Brown that has a 47-36 record in the postseason. Even more important, NOT hiring a man with a 229-104 record in the postseason. The man that all the players wanted and lobbied for was not who they hired, that’s going to make the first meeting with Howard a little awkward. D’Antoni is ill-equipped to fix this team’s problems. Where he will improve the offense, he will ruin the defense even more. This isn’t going to fix the Lakers, only make them more exciting in the short term.
Mike D’Antoni may have success, but it will not be attributable to him. Mike Brown was going to have success with this starting five eventually too. You can’t keep Kobe, Nash, Howard and Pau down for long, D’Antoni may fool the box score watcher, but not the millions watching this train wreck.
There are certainly great reasons to pick D’Antoni, but those reasons aren’t any better than the reasons that Mike Brown was hired in the first place. Both coaches have failed in their careers to take full advantage of the stars on their rosters and so the Lakers settled for another headline making hire instead of going for a young up-and-coming coach, or at least the correct headline making hire. L.A. would not have allowed for a name that wasn’t Jackson, Sloan or D’Antoni to be hired. Unfortunate for the Lakers fans that Kupchak and the owners didn’t make a more logical decision. As ESPN’s Mike Greenberg put it on twitter, “The over/under on Kobe death stares aimed at the new coach is 60.” I’ll take the over please.