D’Antoni, not Phil Jackson, will coach the Lakers
BY GREG BEACHAM November 12, 2012 8:30PM
FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2012, file photo, then-New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni reacts during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden in New York. D'Antoni's agent says the Los Angeles Lakers have signed the former coach of the Suns and Knicks to a four-year contract to replace Mike Brown in a deal late Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, two days after the Lakers fired Brown five games into the season.(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Updated: December 14, 2012 6:27AM
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Just when everybody thought the Los Angeles Lakers were getting back together with coach Phil Jackson, they switched course in the middle of the night and decided to go with Mike D’Antoni.
What a weekend in Hollywood — and the real drama isn’t over yet.
Lakers players reacted with ample excitement — and a little
bewilderment — Monday to the decision to hire D’Antoni as fired coach Mike Brown’s replacement instead of Jackson, the 11-time champion who discussed the job at his home Saturday and apparently wanted to return. D’Antoni didn’t even interview for the job in person, speaking with the Lakers on the phone.
‘‘It has been crazy, but all this stuff will just make this team stronger,’’ Lakers center Dwight Howard said. ‘‘Everything that we’ve been through so far, it’s going to make us stronger, and we have to look at this as a positive situation.’’
D’Antoni still hadn’t been cleared to travel Monday after having
knee-replacement surgery this month, but the Lakers are optimistic the former New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns coach will arrive Wednesday in Los Angeles.
So interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff was still in charge when the Lakers gathered for an informal workout Monday ahead of their game Tesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
‘‘It’s been a zoo,’’ said forward Antawn Jamison, a 15-year veteran who played for D’Antoni on a U.S. national team. ‘‘But as I was telling somebody, it’s just a typical day here in L.A. It’s interesting. . . . It should be a lot easier to adjust to than the system we were trying to get adjusted to [under Brown]. We’ve got Steve [Nash, who played for D’Antoni with the Suns] that can help us out.’’
Two Lakers who supported both Brown and his two potential
replacements weren’t available to weigh in on the hire. Nash missed the workout while getting treatment on his injured leg, and Kobe Bryant left before it ended to share a helicopter ride back to Orange County with teammate Steve Blake, who needed an exam on his abdominal injury.
And Jackson wasn’t at the Lakers’ training complex at all. Just
24 hours after he seemed headed back to his oversized chair on the bench at the Staples Center, D’Antoni had the job.
Jackson issued a statement to a handful of media outlets Monday, implying he essentially was offered the job after meeting with Lakers
owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak on Saturday. Jackson thought he would be able to come back to the Lakers with his decision Monday but instead was awakened by a midnight phone call from Kupchak.
‘‘The decision is, of course, theirs to make,’’ Jackson said in his statement. ‘‘I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who endorsed my return, and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.’’
The Lakers publicly offered no reason for passing over Jackson, but some speculation centered on Jackson’s alleged demands, including limited travel to road games and final say on all personnel