Most Los Angeles Lakers fans can’t think about former head coach Mike D’Antoni without cringing and thinking what if the team had hired Phil Jackson for a third stint instead. D’Antoni had the tall task of dealing with feuding superstars in Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard while also trying to live up to expectations of a super team built with only one goal in mind.
Ultimately, D’Antoni left the team in 2014 rather than waiting to eventually get fired. The former NBA Coach of the Year thought his coaching career in the league was over, via Bill Oram of OC Register:
“When I left L.A., I was very real that I might not work again,” D’Antoni said this summer. “And I was fine with that. I’m old enough to go do other things and be fine with it.”
With D’Antoni two years removed from his short stint with the Lakers, the new Rockets head coach has begun to open up about his time in Los Angeles. D’Antoni claims he couldn’t get his players to buy into his system and the atmosphere was anything but pleasant from start to finish, via Oram:
“I had a certain vision of how we wanted to play, everybody else had another one. We couldn’t get on the same page,” D’Antoni said. “It was kind of a hostile environment when I came and it never changed.”
On Wednesday, D’Antoni will face the Lakers for the first time as an opposing head coach since agreeing to part ways with the team back in 2014. D’Antoni will try to once again implement his fast-paced offense which did so well with the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns.
The 65-year-old fell short with the New York Knicks after leaving the Suns in 2008 and had similar struggles with the Lakers, but he’s got one more opportunity to resurrect his style of play with James Harden as his superstar in Houston.
Ironic that he’ll get started against his former team with fans almost certainly ready to greet him with a chorus of boos at the Staples Center on Wednesday night.