Mike D’Antoni knew he was in the running for the coaching vacancy with the Los Angeles Lakers, but, when the team called him this weekend to offer the job, the former Suns and Knicks coach was reportedly stunned.
D’Antoni was surprised that he was chosen over veteran Lakers coach Phil Jackson, ESPN reported. Many had assumed that Jackson was a lock to return to the team that he led to five championships, and even Jackson himself was reportedly surprised that the team moved on to D’Antoni.
Count Mike D’Antoni among those surprised, the New York Daily News reported. The Lakers came into the season with high expectations, as many had them pegged at a NBA Finals appearance at least due to the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. But the team stumbled to a 1-4 start, leading to the firing Friday of head coach Mike Brown.
“Sure I did,” the former Suns and Knicks coach told the New York Daily News when asked if he thought Phil Jackson was a lock for the vacancy. “For sure I did. Didn’t everybody? When I got the call that it was me, my first reaction was, ‘Are you serious? ‘”
With the Lakers, Mike D’Antoni will be reunited with Steve Nash, whom he coached in the up-tempo, shoot in seven seconds or less offense of the Phoenix Suns. Nash flourished then, but many critics now say the Lakers are too old and too slow to employ D’Antoni’s trademark style.
The team has been coached by Bernie Bickerstaff, winning two straight. Mike D’Antoni is expected to join the team later this week.