Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has been under fire the minute he started coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. First, the reason was seemingly because he’s not Phil Jackson. But now with the Lakers at 21-26, there are plenty of reasons to blame D’Antoni. There’s his stubbornness to stick to his coaching ways. There’s his inability to play Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. There’s also his short leash on players when they make one mistake. And those are only a few of them.
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times talked to Kobe Bryant on numerous topics and, of course, Mike D’Antoni came up. Simers asked Kobe about D’Antoni’s fit with the team and if he’s capable enough to take the team to the promised land. Here are Kobe’s responses:
“Is D’Antoni the right coach?”
There’s a long pause. “I don’t think a coach becomes the right coach until he wins a championship. I don’t think Erik Spoelstra was the right coach in Miami until he won. Phil Jackson was just some hippie coaching in Chicago with this weird offense.”
“Can D’Antoni win a championship?”
“The question for me, is he capable of figuring this puzzle out? I think he has the brains to do so.”
Coaches will hardly get the credit for anything but Phil Jackson is revered for winning 11 championships with both the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers. And I do agree with Kobe; Erik Spoelstra, while still not getting enough credit, has quieted critics after the Miami Heat won the title last season. Spoelstra is actually one of the better coaches around the league, especially when it comes to calling plays out of timeouts. There were questions when Gregg Popovich took over a San Antonio Spurs team because previous head coach Bob Hill had done well with the Spurs. But now everyone thinks as Pop as the best coach in the league after winning four titles with San Antonio.
Right now, Mike D’Antoni is trying to be the right coach for the Lakers and the early returns aren’t as good. But if (yeah, I know) the Lakers make the playoffs and go on to have an improbable run to the title, Mike D’Antoni will definitely get some credit and can shed the reputation of not winning. He didn’t get it done in Phoenix and he didn’t get it done in New York. And it will continue if he doesn’t get it done here in Los Angeles. He may not be labeled as the primary reason for the Lakers winning a title but he can have that championship in his resume and can say that he got the job done.
And D’Antoni should be able to figure it out. There were signs that he did for stretches when the Lakers went on a five-game winning streak early on and then a three-game winning streak before they stumbled in Phoenix. Hopefully, he’ll continue to figure things out. Don’t forget that D’Antoni really didn’t have a training camp to begin with.
D’Antoni, Kobe, and the Lakers held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.