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Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Mike D'Antoni surprised to get job

ESPN.com news services

Mike D'Antoni apparently was just as surprised to get the Los Angeles Lakers' coaching job as Phil Jackson was that he didn't get it.

D'Antoni told the New York Daily News that he assumed, like most everybody else, that Jackson was a lock to return to the franchise as Mike Brown's replacement. Brown was fired after the Lakers stumbled badly out of the gate while struggling to learn his Princeton-inflected offense and playing mediocre defense.

"Sure I did," the former Suns and Knicks coach told the newspaper. "For sure I did. Didn't everybody? When I got the call that it was me, my first reaction was, 'Are you serious?'"

D'Antoni said he was excited to be reunited with point guard Steve Nash, whom he coached in Phoenix for five seasons. Nash won back-to-back NBA MVP awards (2004-05, 2005-06) running D'Antoni's signature up-tempo offense, and they won at least 54 games in each of D'Antoni's last four seasons.

"To get one more chance to have him run the thing the way he did for me before (in Phoenix), well, that's the kind of thing you never think is going to happen. But now it has," D'Antoni told the Daily News.

D'Antoni coached the Knicks for the past four seasons, resigning last March after a largely unsuccessful tenure featuring just one playoff appearance and no postseason victories.

D'Antoni said he considered himself "lucky or even blessed" to get the opportunity to coach the Lakers.

"I like this team," D'Antoni told the newspaper. "We're good, and we're gonna get better."

Kobe Bryant, in a Facebook message he posted just after midnight Tuesday, said he couldn't wait to play for D'Antoni.

"It's been a wild week to say the least," he wrote. I'm happy to have closure and can't wait to get to work with Coach D'Antoni.. spacing, ball movement. And despite the chatter, I believe we will be phenomenal defensively. I'm looking forward to getting started with him and his staff this week. Mamba out."

After Tuesday's shootaround, Bryant said he spoke to D'Antoni briefly earlier in the day and expressed eagerness to start working within the coach's offensive system.

"The offense that he installed for our USA team is the offense that we've run to the tune of two gold medals," Bryant said. "We all know the type of talent that we had on that team, so it was important for us to have an offense that was flexible, that was open, that kept everybody involved, and it worked pretty well for us.

"It's going to be fine. It's not like he takes the same thing that he did in Phoenix and incorporates it here. He has different personnel. He can use Steve to his greatest advantages and me to mine and Dwight (Howard) to his and Pau (Gasol) to his."

Lakers forward Antawn Jamison, a veteran of 14 NBA seasons who joined the club this season as a free agent, also is looking forward to playing for D'Antoni. Jamison described the last few days around the team as "a zoo."

"One thing I like about this team is that we have a lot of veteran guys who have been through turmoil before," Jamison told The Los Angeles Times. "We should be able adjust to this as quickly as possible and really concentrate on the most important thing, which is winning basketball games.

"Once I signed here I got the go-ahead that things are going to be a little bit crazier than I'm used to. I dealt with LeBron (James) leaving Cleveland; guys bringing firearms into the locker room (in Washington) ... I'm used to turmoil a little bit."

A league source told ESPN.com that D'Antoni received a three-year deal worth $12 million with a club option for a 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.

The Lakers plan to hold a news conference Thursday to introduce their new coach. 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."

Jackson said he told Kupchak and Buss that he had "confidence that (he) could do the job" when he met with them Saturday to talk about the position. Jackson then left the meeting with a handshake and understanding "that (he) would have until Monday to come back to them with (his) decision."

Jackson was prepared to return to the Lakers on Monday morning if negotiations between his agent and the team went well, a league source told ESPN late Sunday night. But before he could do so, Jackson said Kupchak woke him around midnight on Sunday by phone to tell him the team had instead signed D'Antoni.

"The decision is of course theirs to make," Jackson said in a statement. "I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin and ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.