When Mike D’Antoni took the head coaching position with the Los Angeles Lakers, the city of Los Angeles was not thrilled. Everyone wanted Phil Jackson and when the team struggled for most of the season, every move D’Antoni made was quickly criticized.
According to the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan, D’Antoni understands how much Phil Jackson meant to the Lakers organization and fanbase:
“Had that bothered me, I shouldn’t have taken the job because you know it’s going to be there. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that, ‘Oh, they won’t remember him.’ Sure they will. It doesn’t affect what we do day-to-day and how we approach the game.”
Despite all the noise, D’Antoni still has the support of Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak and it has enabled him to concentrate on the task at hand:
“Mitch and Jim Buss were really supportive and great. I couldn’t ask for anything better from the staff and franchise. I don’t want to be flippant, but you also have to have an attitude of, ‘To hell with everything. Concentrate. Go forward.’ You can’t get distracted by the noise.”
After a difficult first season as the head coach, D’Antoni is excited about the potential of this year’s team. There are new additions who are willing to learn and he believes everyone will be comfortable with their roles since the uncertainty has disappeared.
With better chemistry, D’Antoni believes the defense will also improve and the Lakers should be able to win more games if they stay healthy.
This off-season, Mike D’Antoni took a step in the right direction by hiring defensive coordinator, Kurt Rambis. There are very few coaches currently in the NBA whose strengths are on both sides of the court. Many usually hire an offensive or defensive coordinator to minimize their weaknesses on one side of the court and it’s encouraging that D’Antoni has finally realized his.
In his first season with the Lakers, D’Antoni went 40-32 and has two more guaranteed years remaining on his contract.
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