Before the Los Angeles Lakers decided to hire Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown as head coach, Phil Jackson was the favorite to return for a third stint.
Lakers fans were ready to usher in a new era of Lakers basketball with Jackson back at the helm and Dwight Howard being prepped to become the new face of the storied franchise. The hiring of Jackson was thought to be a foregone conclusion until the unthinkable happened.
Ultimately, in a “midnight coup” as Jackson calls it, the Lakers chose to hire D’Antoni and all hell broke loose. Fans, NBA analysts and former Lakers, like Magic Johnson, were shocked at the hiring with no idea why the decision to go with D’Antoni over Jackson was made.
According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Dr. Jerry Buss had the last say in the hiring process with Jackson saying the following about getting passed over:
“You know, it was something that has bounced from spot to spot. When I left (the interview), Jimmy was pretty happy about it and Mitch was still saying, “We’re going to keep interviewing people,” and I think the ultimate (decision) kind of rested with Dr. Buss and he made the decision in the hospital the day after.”
As a result of Buss going with D’Antoni over Jackson, the franchise has gone through some drastic changes and is currently in the middle of one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
Not only were the Lakers unable to retain Dwight Howard, but now the future remains uncertain under D’Antoni. Kobe Bryant will be around for two more seasons after signing a lucrative contract extension in November, but Pau Gasol appears to be on his way out this summer while there’s no indication if free agents will be on their way to Los Angeles.
Needless to say, the decision to go with D’Antoni continues to impact the team going forward. We’ll never know what could’ve been with Jackson back to help right the ship in Los Angeles.
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