After the Lakers’ worst season (27-55) since they moved to Los Angeles in 1960, Coach Mike D’Antoni resigned Wednesday night, meaning one of the NBA’s marquee franchises will be looking for a new coach for the third time since Phil Jackson stepped down after the 2010-11 season.
D’Antoni never was a good fit at Staples Center, and injuries to aging stars Kobe Bryant (who at 36 played all of six games this season) and Steve Nash (who played 15), plus the team’s disastrous dalliance with Dwight Howard during the 2012-13 season, didn’t help at all. Plus, there was the fact that he simply wasn’t Jackson, who won five titles in Los Angeles.
Lakers great Magic Johnson needed less than an hour to dance on D’Antoni’s grave. “Happy days are here again! Mike D’Antoni resigns as Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier!” he wrote in a tweet that was soon deleted. On TNT, Charles Barkley scolded Johnson — “he’s bigger than that” — and said D’Antoni never really had a chance because the Lakers simply did not have the talent, telling Ernie Johnson:
“The Lakers weren’t going to win with Phil Jackson, either, Ernie. They don’t have good players. … We know Phil Jackson’s arguably the greatest coach ever. The Lakers don’t have players, Ernie. They’re not a good team. Kobe Bryant is one of the 10 greatest players ever. He’s never going to be what he was. They don’t have good players. I’m not sure if Phil Jackson really wanted that job. The Lakers stink, and they’re going to stink.”
Now the Lakers have a big decision to make as they try to kick-start the rebuilding process, and the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, for one, wonders if executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss is up for the job after whiffing on the three Lakers hires he’s had a hand in previously. Plaschke writes that the next coach will have to “stomach the certain nuttiness that awaits a team that has to rebuild not once (this summer) but twice (the summer after Bryant leaves).” In other words, a younger guy who has both the smarts to steer the ship and the patience to wait out what almost certainly is going to be a few lean years.
Plaschke recommends someone like Kevin Ollie, 41, who led Connecticut to the NCAA title this past season and played 13 years in the NBA. The L.A. Times also trots out the usual college suspects as possible replacements: Kentucky’s John Calipari, Florida’s Billy Donovan and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Thing is, why would any of those guys leave winning situations for what is likely to be a mess?
As far as former NBA coaches, the Times lists Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Byron Scott and both Van Gundys (Jeff and Stan) as possibilities.
Whoever takes the job will almost immediately be on the hot seat in a city where fans are accustomed to titles. But the Lakers likely won’t have the talent to compete for one at least until after next season, when they could be a player in a free agent market that will be sodden with talent.
Sounds like fun.