If D'Antoni is fired, a move to college ball is likely something he'd want to consider.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
If Mike D’Antoni is interested in Marshall, it should be no surprise.
D’Antoni is about to wrap up his second season of coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. From the sounds of things, it will be his last. The Lakers are terrible, and while that shouldn’t all be pinned on D’Antoni, someone has to take the fall, right?
In the NBA, that someone is typically the coach.
While nothing is official until the end of the season, let’s assume D’Antoni is out in LA. After all, Kobe Bryant has hinted it’s time, and when Kobe hints, for better or worse, the Lakers hop.
If that’s the case, and D’Antoni is fired, a move to college ball is likely something he’d want to consider. Or more specifically, a move to Marshall.
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a book about the NBA’s offseason entitled, "A Basketball Summer." It took a look at how the league functions in the offseason. D’Antoni had just been fired by the Denver Nuggets. He gave me extensive one-on-one interview time, as I aimed to focus an entire chapter on how unemployed coaches went about looking for their next gig.
That chapter instead focused entirely on D’Antoni.
At the time, he was a relative unknown who coached the Nuggets for one lockout-shortened season (1999). Two things stood out about D’Antoni during our talks:
1. He vowed he’d someday be successful in the NBA. (He was right, later coaching the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns to some breathtaking seasons, and of course, the New York Knicks after that.)
2. He clearly possessed a strong allegiance to Marshall University. No big shock there, as D’Antoni is a West Virginia native and played for the Thundering Herd from 1970-73.
Marshall fired its coach (Tom Herrion) after the season. D’Antoni appears as if he’ll suffer the same fate with the Lakers. And according to multiple reports, Marshall has reached out to D’Antoni about the gig.
So, Marshall loves D’Antoni and D’Antoni loves Marshall. D’Antoni also may be sick of the NBA. His previous two stops haven’t exactly been smash hits. More like a major nuisance (except, of course, for the paychecks).
The college and the coach could be a good match. D’Antoni had a chance to shoot down the idea, but didn’t, when asked by reporters after a recent Lakers game.
"I hear from them all the time," D’Antoni said of the folks at Marshall. "I’m the head of their capital (fundraising) campaign. I’m close friends to them. Whatever they need, I try to do. But â¦ who knows."
If things play out as suspected, D’Antoni will certainly be highly coveted on the NBA coaching market this summer. He’s been a winner and his teams play an exciting, up-and-down brand of basketball. Both elements really appeal to NBA owners, particularly the part about entertaining. (Anyone who disagrees ought to visit an NBA arena and take a look at the dance teams and indoor fireworks.)
But if D’Antoni discovers he’s had enough of the pro game, and all the hubbub that surrounds it, a return to where it all began might be exactly what he needs.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hopeful of instituting a new age minimum. Currently, prospects only need to have played one year of college ball. Silver is hoping to increase that to two — meaning players would have to wait two years after high school to enter the draft.
Interestingly, unlike similar attempts by former commissioner David Stern, this plan seems to be garnering support from the players.
Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams recently wrote a piece in Sports Illustrated that strongly backed the idea of keeping players in college for two years.
"Most NBA players would be in favor of raising the age limit," wrote Carter-Williams, the frontrunner to land this season’s Rookie of the Year award. "It would make the NBA and college basketball better, since star players would stay in school longer and the NBA would eventually get more-developed players — on and off the court. That’s a win-win."
Washington Wizards swingman Martell Webster, who entered the league straight out of high school (back when it was legal), added a similar opinion.
"If I could do it over again, I would go to school," he told the Washington Post. "I think guys should go to college. It’s a social void that you’ll never be able to replace."
— Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups is expected to retire at the end of the season, following a long and fruitful career that included a championship with the Pistons in 2004. Billups has indicated he would like to move into a front-office role, and it appears plenty of teams are already interested. The Pistons are among them, according to reports, as are the Cleveland Cavaliers.
— Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins has declared for the NBA draft, and multiple sources said he may be leaning toward hiring Rich Paul as his agent. Paul, whose agency is based in Cleveland, also just happens to represent LeBron James (as well as Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson). Wiggins is widely considered a top-three pick.
— Speaking of agents, Arn Tellem is gauging the idea of buying a piece of the Milwaukee Bucks, according to the Racine (Wis.) Journal Times. Tellem and his agency represent more than a few big names, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Derek Rose. Tellem already is part-owner of a pro team in Israel.
— The San Antonio Spurs completed a perfect March (16-0) by blasting the Indiana Pacers on the month’s final night. As of Monday night, the Spurs had won 18 straight. Only two other teams have gone perfect in March: The 1994 New York Knicks (14-0) and the 1973 Bucks (13-0). Those Knicks reached the Finals. Those Bucks lost in the first round of the playoffs.