Mike D’Antoni is going to be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. To some (most?) Laker fans, this is a disappointment but only because he’s not Phil Jackson. It’s hard to follow Jackson’s 11-ring résumé but it’s not like the Lakers are getting crumbs with D’Antoni.
“I love him,” Kobe Bryant simply said about Mike D’Antoni via e-mail to Y! Sports early Monday morning.
He has a winning percentage of .534 (388-339), which isn’t on par with the man he’s replacing, Mike Brown (314-167, .653). But Mike Brown has never coached in a rebuilding situation whereas D’Antoni was put in charge of making the Knicks relevant. It never really worked out in New York, where he only made the playoffs once in his 3 1/2 year stint. But he also clashed with the New York front office in terms of the roster and didn’t want Carmelo Anthony in the first place. However, there’s no denying Mike D’Antoni’s pedigree.
Mike D’Antoni is considered one of the best offensive wizards in the game today. He has relationships with Kobe Bryant (who idolized him), Dwight Howard (coached him in the 2008 Olympics as an assistant), and, of course, Steve Nash. D’Antoni and Nash are almost like a basketball marriage made in heaven. He won Coach of the Year in 2005 and, under his system, Steve Nash won back to back MVPs in 2005 and 2006. They went to the Western Conference Finals twice and, had it not been for Robert Horry’s hip check on Nash, they might have won it all in 2007. And, of course, D’Antoni was an assistant for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 2008 and 2012.
D’Antoni is known for getting the most out of his players with his fast-paced style (seven seconds or less). He also runs a plethora of pick and rolls, which Nash and Howard could absolutely thrive at. It’ll be interesting to see how Kobe does as a spot-up shooter but Kobe said he was okay with D’Antoni as a coach. Can’t wait to see how that develops.
The known problem for Mike D’Antoni is that he runs a very short rotation. Like Mike Brown, he might play the starters too many minutes and run the starters down to the ground; he famously played Jeremy Lin a TON of minutes during Linsanity last season, which led to Lin being shut down before the playoffs started. D’Antoni has a very short leash on players and with the bench barely adequate at the moment, we’re not sure how much playing time they’ll get. However, Nash is a hall-of-fame point guard and can make anyone look like an All-Star. With Nash running the show, Boris Diaw won Most Improved Player in 2006 and Leandro Barbosa won Sixth Man of the Year in 2007. And as mentioned earlier, D’Antoni helped unearth Linsanity. So there’s a pretty good chance that Mike D’Antoni could find another diamond in the rough in the Lakers.
We know that point guards are known to thrive under Mike D’Antoni. Besides Nash and Lin, Chris Duhon had his best years under D’Antoni. Interestingly enough, Chris Duhon is also on the Lakers roster so this reunion is going to be something to watch. Duhon was D’Antoni’s first point guard in New York. He averaged 11.1 points and 7.2 assists per game under his guidance and, while there, set the Knicks franchise record for most assists in a game with 22. Raymond Felton also had a great half-year under D’Antoni; Felton averaged a career best 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game as a Knick before he was traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony megadeal.
To those that are worried about his defense, the Knicks were in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency under his watch last season. However, he also had Mike Woodson as an assistant coach, who was known more for his defense so that might have had something to do with it. And it also helps that he had Tyson Chandler on that roster, who won Defensive Player of the Year last season. D’Antoni has Dwight Howard in this roster so it’s not like Howard will suddenly turn into a teddy bear on defense. As long as they have the right defensive coaches in place, the Lakers should be fine in that department.
It’s not Phil Jackson but this isn’t a bad consolation prize, either. Mike D’Antoni has the credentials and has the support of most of the players. This Laker team should be fun with the former Suns coach on the helm.
Steve Nash, please come back very, very soon.