Despite worst Lakers season ever, Mike D’Antoni still confident
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Mike D’Antoni was infamously chosen to coach the Lakers over a coach who made the triangle famous.
D’Antoni has his own triangle as he explained Friday following Lakers exit interviews.
"The player (sees it) like this," D’Antoni said while forming his hands into a triangle. "Where he’s at the top and then everything’s below.
"A coach sees it upside down where you see the team and then you get down to the player."
In the coach’s mind, that’s why players and coaches clash.
D’Antoni, in his two seasons as Lakers head coach, has certainly had his share of clashes, namely with Pau Gasol. Chris Kaman, in his first season with the club, was added to that mix as well.
The obvious theme the two share is being post players playing for a coach who has a belief in constant ball movement and an unbelief in the ball being dumped in the post as an effective way to score the basketball.
D’Antoni, for better or for worse, has become the poster boy for the way basketball is being played today.
His success implementing a breakneck pace with the Phoenix Suns has played a huge role in the way the game is played today at all levels.
"It’s not the same basketball that your father played," D’Antoni said. "It’s just not."
Added general manager Mitch Kupchak: "He’s 100% correct. If you look at college, it’s how they play in college. A lot of those NCAA games we watched just several weeks ago, they were pushing the ball up the court and guys ARE taking three point shots before there was even a rebounder near the basket. It’s just how they play today."
Lakers players missed 319 games during the regular season due to injury. There’s a thought that D’Antoni’s style of play increases the chance of being injured.
"To me it’s ludicrous," said D’Antoni who has one more guaranteed year left on his contract. "To me the pace of play and the way you spread the floor leads to less injuries.
"I don’t believe in that."
Despite his critics, he believes his style of play is the way to go. It’s where basketball is and it’s where the game is headed for the foreseeable future.
"People are comfortable doing business a certain way and when that business kind of shifts to get people to change, it’s a process," D’Antoni said. "The problem is most people commenting on it played a different way. And now you’re shaping opinion a different way and that’s not where it’s going to go. As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think, they’re better off. Basketball has changed."
The toughest challenge D’Antoni says he faces is changing those opinions of players and others within the organization. It’s a process, he says, but he’s not convinced his style of play does not work or isn’t a means to be successful.
As he’s tried to change those opinions, he’s grown increasingly unpopular among Lakers fans, who have not bought in.
"Opinion is shaped by the record," D’Antoni said. "You have a hard time explaining ‘Oh, this really works’ when you lost 10 in a row."
The 2013-14 season saw the Lakers finish 27-55, the most losses in franchise history.
Although D’Antoni has one more guaranteed year left on his contract — the other is a club option — next year has come into question.
The Lakers head coach did not talk with Lakers management but is expected to meet with Kupchak and owner Jim Buss sometime in the near future following Easter vacation.
At that point, the Lakers are expected to make a deciscion on D’Antoni’s future as head coach of the Lakers.
"Mike is under contract for two more years," Kupchak said. "If anything changes, we’ll let you know."