HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This story gets better by the hour.
Barely a day after the Los Angeles Lakers’ stunning move to hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, both men have expressed their own complete and utter shock at the choice the Lakers made.
D’Antoni, as bright a coach as the league has seen in his generation, was genuinely stunned to beat out Jackson, telling the New York Daily News all about it. His first reaction … “Are you serious?”
Jackson was blindsided as well and his version of how things went down, courtesy of our main man Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times, might serve as the most compelling narrative to date, complete with this statement:
“Saturday morning, [Lakers executive] Jim Buss called to ask if he could come and visit. I didn’t solicit or ask for the opportunity but I welcomed both him and [team executive] Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach,” Jackson said.
“We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a handshake and an understanding that I would have until Monday [today] to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team. The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who encouraged my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
It’s a fitting next step in a saga that promises to provide headlines and plot twists between now and whenever the Lakers’ season ends. That might be in the first or second round of the playoffs for the third straight season or perhaps it ends later, provided the masses of fans and pundits are wrong and the D’Antoni-in-Los Angeles experiment actually works.
Buss and the Lakers better be right on this one. Because it’s clear they played Jackson for a fool, undercutting him before he could react to an offer that technically was never made. It’s a public and disgraceful play by the Lakers and absolutely no way to treat a coach of Jackson’s stature. It’s also a move that could backfire on the Lakers even worse than the Brown hire.
While we wait for this thing to play out, we’re left to continue our deconstruction of the carnage that was the Lakers’ firing and hiring process, both of which seemed to have been done in extreme haste.
We’ve heard Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol‘s feelings about D’Antoni and what they hope becomes of this team in the near future. And we’ve read Kobe Bryant’s 53 words of wisdom on Facebook (complete with the “Mamba Out” sign off). We love the part where he tells us all that despite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Lakers will be fine defensively and he cannot wait to get started with D’Antoni.
You’ll have to forgive me (and I’m not speaking for everyone here at the hideout on this) for being fed up with the complete and utter arrogance of not only Bryant, but also the Lakers’ front office. Bryant issued similar love for Brown and his staff, eventually, after he got over the sting of not being consulted on Jackson’s replacement. And we all know how that played out.
The Lakers can tell whatever white lies they want to make themselves feel better about the way this went down. But don’t expect me to swallow any more of it. Ill will between Jackson and the Lakers’ front office should never affect what is best for the team, the franchise and its devoted fans. If the Lakers really believe D’Antoni is the best choice, he wouldn’t be nearly as surprised as he is.