After parting ways with head coach Mike Brown only five games into the 2012-13 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers courted former coach Phil Jackson to bring out of retirement. Although Jackson seriously considered the proposition, the Lakers brass went in another direction seemingly out of nowhere by hiring Mike D’Antoni.
Following two disappointing seasons and the departure of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in free agency, D’Antoni resigned as Lakers head coach in April of 2014. D’Antoni struggled in Los Angeles in the same way he did during his time with the New York Knicks. All the success D’Antoni had with the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns seemed to have faded away as his system never really caught on with the Lakers or Knicks.
Although he resigned from his last two coaching jobs in the NBA, the 65-year-old was able to get another head coaching gig in the league with the Houston Rockets. As he prepares to face his former team in his Rockets debut on Oct. 26, D’Antoni reflected on his time in Los Angeles and New York and in an interview with Maurice Bobb of Bleacher Report.
“I could never get the guys from the beginning to buy into the way we want to play,” D’Antoni told Bleacher Report. “We never got everybody going into the same direction. That was my fault. It happened. That’s in the past. This is a new team. Guys want to play the way we all want to play.”
D’Antoni will now try to give it one more shot with the Rockets. The odds may not be in his favor with Houston falling apart over the past couple of seasons, going from potential title contender to a team struggling to make the playoffs.
During his stint with the Suns, D’Antoni was widely considered to be one of the best coaches in the NBA. Phoenix, however, never made it beyond the Western Conference Finals. D’Antoni’s teams always fell short to heavyweights like Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks and Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs in the postseason.
There’s no question that D’Antoni’s system has worked well at times. Nash has two NBA MVP awards to prove that fact as well as many deep runs in the playoffs, but it seems as though when D’Antoni had to deal with outspoken or ball-demanding stars like Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, the well-traveled head coach couldn’t put it together.
D’Antoni’s stint with the Rockets might be more of the same with James Harden reportedly becoming increasingly difficult to deal with in Houston. Only time will tell how that relationship works out and if D’Antoni can turn things around for a once-promising team led by an elite scorer.