Why did the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately decide to make Mike D’Antoni their next head coach? Why did they pick him over Phil Jackson? Those two questions aren’t going away any time soon. At least not until we finally get answers that makes sense.
D’Antoni is a very good coach – nobody is denying that. But he doesn’t have 11 titles. He doesn’t have one title, for that matter. Heck, he’s never even been to the NBA Finals. How does he get the nod over a guy like Phil without something sinister being at work?
Yesterday, we broke down the varying stories being floated by Phil Jackson’s camp and Jim Buss’ camp. Everyone paints the same picture as far as actions go, but they vary when it comes to the motivations for those actions. And seeing as people’s motivations are something nobody can know or understand fully, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves entangled in this soap opera.
On Tuesday, during a press conference with the media, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did his best to clear up what he perceived to be misconceptions. Essentially, he made it clear that a.) the job wasn’t Phil Jackson’s to turn down and b.) they didn’t tell Phil Jackson the job was his to turn down.
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"There was no agreement to wait for [Jackson's] response on Monday," Kupchak said (via the Los Angeles Times). "He told us that's when he would get back to us. I could see where he might interpret that as 'You guys would wait for me.' But I thought when I said I had to go on and interview other candidates that it was clear I had a job to do."
Which make sense. Even Phil Jackson’s camp has acknowledged that the Lakers said they would talk to other candidates. That is a matter of public record.
As far as why the team ultimately decided on D’Antoni: "He plays the way we see our team playing and our personnel executing," Kupchak said.
And on how Phil Jackson’s triangle would mesh with the current Lakers team: "I know the triangle," he said. "Obviously I wasn't convinced."
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Frankly, after hearing Kupchak’s account of what happened, it does sound like what went down could have been genuine miscommunication. He did make it explicitly clear on Friday that other candidates would be interviewed. Again, that was a matter of public record. We reported that ourselves. You can see how Phil Jackson may have interpreted that as a negotiating ploy or something, but Kupchak was genuinely scouting other options.
Maybe if Phil Jackson had accepted on the spot, or on Saturday, or at any point on Sunday before the infamous midnight call, then he’d be the coaching the Lakers right now. Alas, that was not the case.
(Kudos Los Angeles Times)