Conditions in LA may fit D'Antoni's creed
NOV 12, 2012 2:56a ET
According to the Times, D'Antoni will officially be introduced as Lakers coach later this week.
D'Antoni made a name for himself in stints with Phoenix and New York. The former came with current Lakers point guard Steve Nash.
But I spoke to D'Antoni following his one-year stop in Denver -- his first in the NBA. That came during the lockout season of 1998-99. After an ultra-successful playing and coaching career in Italy, D'Antoni failed with the Nuggets. They finished 14-36 and D'Antoni got canned.
You usually don't get a second chance after a season like that. Not in the NBA. Not as a head coach.
Still, D'Antoni figured he would. He wasn't sure how. He just knew the opportunity would come. Somehow, some way. And he was right.
I spoke to D'Antoni at great length following that dismal year in Denver. I was working on a book about how NBA types spent their summers -- specifically about how team executives built their rosters in the off-season.
The chapter involving D'Antoni centered on out-of-work coaches in search of their next gig, and he and I talked for several hours a day, spread out over two or three weeks.
D'Antoni is a proud West Virginia native, and I was a sportswriter living in West Virginia at the time. I'm convinced that's at least part of the reason he was so open. The rest of the reason, it seemed, was based on D'Antoni's dedicated belief that he could be successful in the NBA. I seemed to be the only person interested in listening, my book the only place his confidence could be expressed.
He had no doubt that his up-and-down and outshoot-the-other-guy philosophy worked, he said. He was sure it could result in titles in the NBA, he insisted. It had, after all, brought him championships in Italy. All he needed was the right personnel.
In Phoenix, he came close. The elusive and crafty Nash was the perfect point man to direct D'Antoni's attack. The two of them turned Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson and others into sharpshooters. The Suns came close … but always seemed to lack the major superstar to get past the dominant San Antonio teams earlier this decade.
That shouldn't be a problem today.
As you know, the Lakers' roster is loaded with big names: from Nash to Kobe Bryant to Dwight Howard to Pau Gasol. Unlike their sputtering 1-4 start under Mike Brown, this is now a team on the move, a team that will bring shades of the Showtime era back to LA.
Along with the stars, D'Antoni's philosophy involves getting others to play to their strengths -- and probably enjoy it. In other words, players such as Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, used sparingly off the bench early, will get a chance to do what they do best. They'll get a chance to spot up and chuck it. And don't be shocked if the Lakers soon bring in another proven shooting specialist.
D'Antoni doesn't have Phil Jackson's credentials (far from it). D'Antoni's teams aren't known for their defense (ditto). And there are plenty of skeptics who maintain D'Antoni's style won't ever work in the NBA.
D'Antoni has always disagreed. Now, he just may have the talent, depth and experience to prove himself right.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO