Monday, December 15, 2008
Phoenix welcomes D'Antoni
PHOENIX -- The fans stood and cheered Monday night when Mike D'Antoni was introduced as coach of the New York Knicks.
The cheering didn't stop until the lights were turned out in preparation for the introduction of the Suns team that is far different than the one he coached for four-plus seasons.
"They're a good team," D'Antoni told a crowd of reporters outside the visitor's locker room before the game. "I'm sure they'll find their way and contend for the West, no doubt about it. But it is different, and it will be different and it'll be different next year and the year after."
It was D'Antoni's first return since he left to take the Knicks' job as a result of what was described as a difference of philosophy with Suns general manager Steve Kerr. Kerr wanted more emphasis on defense and a deeper player rotation.
D'Antoni was asked if he had any regrets.
"The regrets are we didn't win a championship," he said. "...It came to a point, we've discussed it and rehashed. It's over and you just go on. I've got a great team now, and the sense in that locker room is super, and the guys are working and we're building something."
The crowd showed its appreciation for D'Antoni, whose fast-paced Suns became the highly entertaining darlings of the NBA but never made it to the finals.
At one point, the Suns' Grant Hill borrowed a tape recorder and joined the throng of reporters, tapping the coach on the shoulder, then waving and jogging down the hall as D'Antoni turned around.
"That's what you should be doing," D'Antoni called out to him. "An ESPN jacket would be good on you."
D'Antoni said the return, the Knicks' lone appearance in Phoenix this season, had been taxing.
"You get a little bit more tired on these games, I think, than a normal game just because you're seeing people, you're running around, you're doing this, you're doing that," he said. "But once in a lifetime is good enough, so this'll be good. We'll get it over with and we'll go on with our lives."