Much to the surprise of Laker fans, the purple and gold named Mike D'Antoni head coach...not Phil Jackson.
By JOE McDONNELL FS West
LOS ANGELES – Mike D'Antoni – not Phil Jackson – is the new head coach of the
Los Angeles Lakers. He will replace the fired Mike Brown and is the team's third coach in the past 18 months.
D'Antoni's agent, Warren Legarie, told FoxSportsWest.com that the sides agreed on a four- year guaranteed deal. D'Antoni is thought to be making between $4-5 million per season with his new team.
"Mike is pumped – actually he's beyond pumped," Legarie said. "He can't wait to get started. And when you look at the roster of the Lakers, you don't have to wonder why he's so excited. This team is loaded with talent."
For Legarie, though, it's bittersweet. He also represents Mike Brown.
"It's great for Mike (D'Antoni); he's a great coach and will do very, very well. But it's a tough situation because I love both guys. They're both just great guys."
According to Legarie, the negotiations came together very quickly.
"Mike was interviewed Saturday on the phone and that was the only interview he had," Legarie said. "Things began happening late Sunday, and it became a done deal just about the time the Lakers game was ending."
Los Angeles won its second in a row, beating Sacramento 103-90. The Lakers are now 3-4 after seven games. Brown was fired on Friday after a 1-4 start.
Intense speculation was that Jackson would take the job and begin his third go-around with the team he's coached to five NBA titles. However, as FoxSportsWest.com reported Saturday night, Jackson's demands for personnel control and a salary request of around $18 million per year would probably kill his chances to get the job.
A person close to the Lakers confirmed that Jackson's demands were considered outrageous, including his desire to usurp GM Mitch Kupchak's power and authority. So Jackson stays in retirement, while D'Antoni brings his up-tempo style offense to Los Angeles, which might conjure up thoughts of the Lakers "Showtime" days when they won five championships with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar leading the way, four of them under coach Pat Riley.
D'Antoni's first NBA head coaching job came with the Denver Nuggets in the 1998-99 season, which was shortened by a labor dispute between players and owners. The team went 14-36 and he was replaced by Denver icon Dan Issel.
D'Antoni's next opportunity came early in the 2003-2004 season, when he replaced Frank Johnson in Phoenix just 21 games into the season. They finished 29-53, just one game ahead of the last-place Los Angeles Clippers. Despite the poor showing, he kept his job and soon led the Suns to four straight 50-plus win seasons (2004-2008). He also helped current Laker Steve Nash win back-to-back MVP awards in 2005 and 2006.
D'Antoni then moved on to New York for the 2008-09 season. In three-plus seasons, he guided the Knicks to a 121-167 record with one playoff appearance in 2011 – a first-round sweep by the Boston Celtics. D'Antoni resigned after an 18-24 start in 2011-12.
D'Antoni is also a favorite of
Kobe Bryant. In fact, the Lakers' superstar guard grew up part-time in Italy when his dad, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played in the Italian League. While D'Antoni was leading Olimpia Milano to five Italian League championships, he became Kobe's favorite player, Bryant often admitting that he idolized the 6-3 guard. D'Antoni also was an assistant coach on the the 2008 and 2012 editions of Team USA. Bryant said Friday the he would love to play for D'Antoni if the chance came about.
Now it has.
According to Legarie, because of knee replacement surgery D'Antoni still doesn't have permission to fly, so he'll remain at his New York home, continuing to recover from knee replacement surgery. They're hoping doctors will take off D'Antoni's travel restrictions in the next day or two, and Legarie said the new Laker coach is hoping to be in town by mid-week for a news conference and to run his first practice.