Lakers hire Mike D'Antoni
A league source said D'Antoni gets a three-year deal worth $12 million with a club option in the fourth year. D'Antoni's agent Warren LeGarie confirmed the deal late Sunday night, several hours after the Lakers beat Sacramento 103-90 for their second straight win under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
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The deal was signed around 11:30 p.m. PT Sunday night, a source close to the situation told ESPN. Sources confirmed a Los Angeles Times report that D'Antoni quickly agreed to coach the Lakers after L.A.'s weekend of negotiations to bring back Phil Jackson broke down.D'Antoni, speaking to SI.com on Monday morning, declined to elaborate on the details of the deal.
"They asked me not to talk, so I'm not going to," D'Antoni said.
The Lakers said they plan to hold a news conference most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. In a statement released by the team, Lakers spokesperson John Black said team owner Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak were "unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."
"I love PJ but I'm very excited about D'Antoni," Kobe Bryant told ESPN early Monday.
Sources told ESPN that Jackson's triangle offense was seen as a benefit to Bryant and Pau Gasol but not as conducive to the rest of the players on the roster -- namely point guard Steve Nash and center Dwight Howard. Another strike against the triangle was the fact that this Lakers team struggled mightily to pick up the similarly complicated Princeton-style offense being instituted by Brown.
A league source indicated late Sunday night that Jackson was "stunned" when the Lakers called to inform him they had chosen D'Antoni. He had been prepared to accept the job Monday if negotiations between his agent and the Lakers went well. Jackson's agent Todd Musberger had been scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Monday
Jackson and the Lakers had never spoken about a salary, the source said, "but he knew coaches don't make what he used to make anymore." Despite reports to the contrary, Jackson, the source said, also never intended to miss any more road games than he had in his previous years with the Lakers.
D'Antoni's Suns Flunked Finals
Mike D'Antoni finished first or second in the West from 2004-07 with the Suns. He is one of three coaches since 1996-97 to not reach the Finals over a three-year span despite finishing first or second in the conference.
No Finals despite finishing 1st or 2nd in conference in 3-year span*
|*Last four instances|
"Phil would come back only to win and skipping games doesn't lead to winning," the source said.
D'Antoni had knee surgery at the beginning of November and hasn't yet been cleared to travel, according to sources. "It'll be a couple of days before he comes in, but he's further along than people believe," a source said.
Another source said D'Antoni must receive clearance from his knee specialist to fly and also to limit his medication. He is expected to arrive in L.A. on Wednesday at the earliest and Thursday at the latest. It's doubtful, though possible, he coaches Friday's game, the source said.
There is a possibility that Bickerstaff will remain interim head coach even after D'Antoni's introductory news conference, according to a source, if D'Antoni isn't feeling physically able to coach games just yet.
Part of the current crop of leftovers from Brown's staff are expected to be retained by D'Antoni, and he will bring in "one or two" new coaches, according to a source. Two candidates to join D'Antoni are his older brother and longtime assistant, Dan D'Antoni, as well Phil Weber, another longtime aide.
D'Antoni spent five seasons coaching Nash in Phoenix. Nash won two MVP awards while running D'Antoni's signature up-tempo offense, and they won at least 54 games in each of D'Antoni's last four seasons.
D'Antoni then coached New York for the past four seasons, resigning last March after a largely unsuccessful tenure featuring just one playoff appearance and no postseason victories.
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Nash and Bryant expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of playing for D'Antoni, although Bryant eagerly campaigned for a third stint for Jackson on the Lakers' bench. Bryant idolized D'Antoni while growing up in Italy, where D'Antoni was a star player in the Italian league.
"Obviously I think everyone knows how much I love Mike," Nash said Sunday night prior to the hiring. "If (D'Antoni) were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well."
The Lakers have improved to 3-4 after following up their winless preseason with four losses in their first five regular-season games, the club's worst start since 1993.
Brown was fired after the Lakers stumbled badly out of the gate, struggling to learn his Princeton-inflected offense and playing mediocre defense. D'Antoni has a reputation as an offensive-minded coach.
The Lakers' next game is Tuesday night against San Antonio. Phoenix visits Staples Center on Friday.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and Arash Markazi, ESPN.com's J.A. Adande, and The Associated Press was used in this report.