- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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Bryant said he hasn't spoken to Jackson since the Lakers chose to hire D'Antoni instead of the 11-time championship-winning coach, but he was outspoken about how Jackson and his assistant coaches have been underappreciated for their success.
"It seems like all our assistant coaches when they left here, to even mention the word 'Triangle' was like taboo," Bryant said after the Lakers' 84-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. "I don't understand it. I really don't know the answer to that question. It's very strange, very bizarre. You would think that organizations and other coaches should try to learn from Phil. That's what you should try to do, right? If you have a coach that's won more than anybody in our profession, you would think you'd want to study them and analyze them, but they haven't done it."
Bryant played under Jackson for 11 of Bryant's 17 seasons in the league and the pair won five championship rings together. When asked what parts of Jackson's coaching Bryant has carried with him since Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant replied, "Everything. I'm basically the Baby Zen Master."
D'Antoni will be the eighth head coach other than Jackson whom Bryant has played for in his career, joining the likes of Del Harris, Bill Bertka, Kurt Rambis, Rudy Tomjanovich, Frank Hamblen, Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff.
"I probably wouldn't have learned the game to the depths that I know now," Bryant said when asked if he has ever thought what his career would be like without having been coached by Jackson.
And would he have won all those titles?
"Probably not," Bryant said. "If you're talking about winning championships, that's what a great coach does, install confidence in the rest of the guys. Make sure they're comfortable in their roles and that's how you win championships. If you're talking about from an individual standpoint, like I say, no matter who's coaching I'm still going to do what I do, but it's not going to equate to winning championships."
D'Antoni's hiring assures that if Bryant is going to win another championship, it will be his first without Jackson. But Bryant had the highest praise imaginable for D'Antoni, comparing him to Jackson.
"Mike has some of the same characteristics in terms of not micromanaging the team," Bryant said. "Setting guys up and putting guys in the right positions to be successful. He's probably one altercation in San Antonio away from getting to the Finals."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.