Mike D’Antoni told FOX Sports Southwest and DallasBasketball.com on Friday that he would readily accept the vacant head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers, which opened earlier in the day when Mike Brown was fired.
“If they offer it, I’d love it,” he said just hours after Brown was let go. “It’d be a perfect fit.”
Speaking to FOX Sports Southwest’s Nancy Lieberman, D’Antoni said that his recent knee surgery would not serve as an obstacle to starting immediately. D’Antoni said that those wheels are in motion, with his agent Warren LeGarie having already contacted the Lakers. Meanwhile, sources close to Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told FOX Sports Southwest that there will be an in-house push from legend-turned-team-exec Magic Johnson to hire ex-Lakers guard Brian Shaw, who was originally passed over for the job in favor of Brown and is now a Pacers assistant.
The Lakers have gotten off to a slow 2-4 start but intend to move fast on a new coach. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff said that he will coach the club only for the very short term and that LA intends to have a new coach in place during the six-game home stand that began with Friday’s 10-177 win.
D’Antoni is high on the list in part because of his credentials and in part because of his connections. His fast-paced offensive system would be an easy-to-install Showtime crowd-pleaser and would be triggered by new Laker Steve Nash, who keyed D’Antoni’s explosive Phoenix Suns teams. It would also feature Kobe Bryant, of course — and Bryant and D’Antoni are close due to their shared experiences with Team USA and with having both lived in Italy.
Shaw has no head coaching experience but has the backing of Magic and possibly other veterans who played with him in LA. Kupchak, however, said at a Friday news conference, “I think it’s more likely that we would look to coaches that are not presently employed.”
That could lead LA back to Phil Jackson, of course. Other names have been thrown into this mix (including Jerry Sloan, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy). But none has the overall appeal of former Lakers boss Jackson, in retirement at 67 but nevertheless the most decorated NBA coach on the planet. A source close to Kupchak insists there is little “Phil buzz” inside Lakers HQ, but Kupchak himself said, “When there’s a coach like Phil Jackson, one of the all-time greats, and he’s not coaching, I think you’d be negligent not to be aware that he’s out there.”