November 19, 2012

Direct Kick: Lakers throw a curve in picking D’Antoni over Jackson

By Denis House
Sports Editor

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — If you were looking for a coach and you had the choice between someone who has won 11 titles compared to someone who has never won a title and has a losing record in the playoffs, the choice would be a no brainer, right?

Wrong, if you are the Los Angeles Lakers.

After firing Mike Brown five games into the season, all eyes turn toward Phil Jackson, who guided the Lakers to five NBA titles. Before that, he won six crowns with the Chicago Bulls. Overall, he has a record of 1155-485 and never missed the playoffs. Jackson himself was ready to accept the job Monday morning if negotiations went well.

I guess they didn’t as the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni in a very surprising move that has left the sporting world scratching its head and has left Jackson “stunned.”

D’Antoni has coached three different NBA teams (Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns) amassing a record of 388-339. His greatest success came with the Suns, where he won the western division title three times and made it to two conference finals. But his teams have also missed the playoffs four times.

So why did the Lakers go with D’Antoni instead of Jackson? I don’t know.

Maybe it was because Steve Nash played under D’Antoni with the Suns, or that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard played for Team USA when D’Antoni was an assistant coach. Maybe it was because Jackson was asking for an ownership piece of the Lakers or restricted travel to away games, as has been reported. Maybe the Buss family doesn’t care for Jackson, even though he has been the long-time boyfriend of Jeanie Buss.

D’Antoni likes to run an up-tempo offense. The Lakers are one of the slowest teams in the league. How is that going to work out? Some say that Jackson’s triangle offense would take too long for this present team to learn. What? These are pros and should have no problem learning any kind of offense.

I think the Lakers made this decision too quickly, just as they did firing Brown after a 1-4 start following a winless preseason. They put themselves in a very sticking situation. Since Brown’s firing, LA has won two straight, so maybe they were just slow starting.

What if D’Antoni doesn’t turn this team around? Can you imagine the backlash from the fans for not hiring Jackson, a coach considered by many to be among the best to ever coach in the NBA?  You couldn’t blame them for being upset. After all, they made their voice known that Jackson was the man they wanted.

From listening to those in the know, D’Antoni is considered a very good coach. Being someone who hasn’t followed the league in some time, I will have to take their word on this. But I do know what kind of a coach Jackson is, and I can’t understand why LA wouldn’t go with him. They said they feel D’Antoni is a better fit for this team. Guess we will find out.

When D’Antoni does take over as coach (he is presently recovering from knee surgery), and if he doesn’t win and win soon, I wonder how long the Lakers will wait until they can him? And if this happens, and they put a call into Jackson, I wonder if he would even answer?

I wouldn’t blame him if he let it go to voicemail.