Why is Mike D'Antoni head coach of the Lakers instead of Phil Jackson? Because Jerry Buss said so.
By JOE McDONNELL FS West
LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers held a news conference Thursday afternoon for new head coach Mike D'Antoni, formally introducing him to the cauldron that is Laker Nation. Just four days ago it was assumed – wrongly – by many media outlets that this news conference would be to re-introduce Phil Jackson.
According to many misled members of the media, Jackson was a "lock" for the job as late as Sunday afternoon after having a job interview with the team Saturday. Instead of a lock, he was locked out, causing an uproar that was probably heard all the way back at Jackson's Montana ranch.
So how and why was the so-called "Zen Master" and his resume of 11 NBA championships passed over for a coach who hasn't tasted the thrill of winning the last game of an NBA season?
It's really kind of obvious, a quick and simple answer which takes just two words: Jerry Buss.
The Lakers owner, who is one of the main forces behind 10 of the 16 NBA titles his team has earned, just didn't want another round of the triangle, according to sources. He apparently wanted "Showtime" back – or something closely resembling it – and D'Antoni's high-octane offense most closely fits the bill.
As well as Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak have done in putting together a starting five of elite NBA talent, and a bench that they feel will eventually develop into a productive reserve unit, common sense tells you that the absolute final decisions about anything important concerning the Lakers have to be approved by Dr. Buss.
If you don't think the good doctor gave his OK to acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, think again. Ultimately it's his money and the final calls on all matters purple and gold will come from him. As a great businessman, he'll consult with son Jim or trusted employee Kupchak, and take their thoughts into consideration. Then he'll do what he thinks is best for the Lakers and their fans, which is why D'Antoni will be coaching the Lakers for the foreseeable future.
"Make no mistake about it, Jerry Buss made the final call on firing Mike Brown, passing over Jackson and ultimately deciding on D'Antoni," confirmed an NBA source who requested anonymity. "The management structure is a democracy up to a certain point; but when something very big comes up, Jerry makes the decision.
"That's not to say he overrules his guys all the time – he doesn't. But if he disagrees, he uses his veto power to do what is in the best interests of his organization. He's overruled Kupchak and he even went against Jerry West sometimes. They would have animated discussions, and Dr. Buss would listen, then sometimes do what he wanted."
And for those who are roasting him and the management team for the D'Antoni hiring, consider this: he's not wrong very often.
He wasn't even officially the team owner yet, but in 1979 he made it clear that he wanted Jack Kent Cooke to draft Magic Johnson with the first pick rather than highly-regarded Sidney Moncrief. That decision set the tone for over three decades of consistent success.
So, for Lakers fans who are ready to explode because Phil Jackson wasn't re-re-hired, don't fret. With Buss' track record, don't be surprised if the Lakers are taking a champagne shower in late June.
For the 11th time in the 33 years he's owned the team.