The Lakers signed a big-name coach on Sunday night, but it's not Phil Jackson. When talks with Jackson bogged down, despite his all-out endorsement by Kobe Bryant and the Staples Center fans, the Lakers quickly gave a multi-year deal to Mike D'Antoni. He's the former Phoenix Suns coach who led the New York Knicks until last year. He had knee-replacement surgery recently and won't be available for a week or so.
From Mike Bresnahan on the LA Times website:
"We signed Mike D'Antoni to a multi-year deal," Lakers spokesman John Black said, mentioning the team's owner and top two executives. "Dr. [Jerry] Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were unanimous that Mike D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."
The Lakers will announce their new coach at a news conference as early as Tuesday but more likely later in the week. Bernie Bickerstaff will remain the team's interim coach for now.
D'Antoni signed a three-year deal for $12 million. The team holds an option for a fourth year."
Bryant is reportedly OK with the choice. "They know how I feel about Phil. They know how I feel about D'Antoni," he says in the LAT story. "I like them both." Steve Nash, who played for D'Antoni on the Suns, said he would be a good choice.
According to ESPN LA, the Lakers "ultimately couldn't stomach Jackson's contract demands to return." He reportedly wanted a salary ranging from $10 to 15 million annually, significant say in personnel decisions and his eventual replacement, and the OK to skip some road games.
The Lakers' official word is brief.
Noted: Times columnist Helene Elliott cuts to the gist in a late-night tweet: "just never a dull moment around the Lakers. can't wait to see fan reaction Monday when folks hear next coach is D'Antoni, not Phil Jackson."
* Monday morning updates:
Jackson reportedly wanted a share of ownership in the team. Some pretty negative reaction so far to the hiring:
Phil Wallace at Native Intelligence: Puzzling decision on many levels seems like wrong move for Lakers.
Bill Plaschke, LA Times: D'Antoni system can't work with old, slow guys like the Lakers and he doesn't coach defense or win in the playoffs.
Gene Warnick, LANG sports editor: Right move for Lakers at this time.
Magic Johnson tweeted Sunday that he was not involved in Mike Brown's firing:
I'd like to address some rumors related to my role in the firing of Mike Brown. I had NO conversations w/ Dr. Buss, Jim Buss or Mitch.
I'm not involved w/ the @Lakers day-to-day, only the @Dodgers.
The last time I spoke to Dr. Buss, was 3 months ago & we were merely reminiscing about the Showtime @Lakers days.
If I was involved w/ the firing of Mike Brown, I would own it like I did w/ Paul Westhead.
Screen grab of D'Antoni and Bryant from ESPN.com