- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history ended. Two days of exit interviews ensued. And Mike D'Antoni walked out of the Lakers' practice facility Friday with his job as the coach of the league's marquee team still in place.
"He's under contract for two more years," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of D'Antoni, who is set to make $4 million next season, with a team option to retain him in 2015-16. "If anything changes, we'll let you know."
Kupchak said that he, D'Antoni and Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss will huddle in the near future to review the season after D'Antoni takes some time off with his family for the Easter holiday. The GM made it clear in advance of that review that he doesn't peg the season's struggles on D'Antoni's coaching.
"Under the circumstances, I'm not sure anybody could have done a better job than he did," Kupchak said.
D'Antoni, who has gone 67-87 (.435) with the Lakers since being hired to replace Mike Brown at the beginning of last season, said speculation about his job status was to be expected.
"I think every coach should be under scrutiny, and they're under it even if it goes well," D'Antoni said, alluding to the record 12 coaches who were fired after last season. "There will come a day where you sit down with management, see where they want to go, and try to get on the same page, whatever page that is. That hasn't been decided today."
Whatever does happen, D'Antoni said he has no regrets about his time as the 24th coach in Lakers franchise history.
"I think anytime the Lakers call, anyone would take this job," he said.
While D'Antoni awaits a final determination, he refused to dwell on the things that have gone wrong since he came to L.A., from the failed marriage to Dwight Howard to the 319 games that Lakers players missed in 2013-14 because of injuries.
"I'm not going to play the card, 'Woe is me,'" he said. "This has been a great job, great city, great fans, and you understand the risk that you have with it. There's no 'woe is me.' I'm looking forward to the next challenge, whatever that is, take some time to reflect and get your fire back up and then attack whatever the future holds."
One thing D'Antoni is confident in is that the NBA will continue to embrace his preferred up-and-down, open style of play as the league's standard.
"Basketball's changed, and it's not the same basketball your father played," D'Antoni said, adding that part of the reason his style isn't more widely accepted by fans is because most former players who have become television analysts buck against the change. "It's just not it. And teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful quicker."
Kupchak backed D'Antoni's opinion: "I don't think there's any doubt it's changed. He is 100 percent correct."
D'Antoni was asked to describe his relationship with Bryant, in light of the fact that the coach admitted that the star guard failed to inform him or anyone else in the organization about his trip to Europe this week.
"Professional," D'Antoni said, summing up the dynamic. "He's a very competitive, big-time competitor; he's going to do everything in that to win. I think I'm competitive and I'll do anything to win. Sometimes it does butt heads a little bit, but nothing out of the ordinary."
D'Antoni, who helped coach Bryant to two Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball and who was once dubbed an "offensive genius" by the five-time champion, explained why their relationship has deteriorated.
"Losing does it," D'Antoni said. "Losing grates on everybody. That's the biggest thing. There's not a problem that can't be overcome. You sit down, do it and get on the same page. That's not an issue. When you lose and certain things go different ways, you get frustrated. Some people make comments as players every once in a while. It's just the frustration, and it happens with everybody. I'm sure all of you come home after work and rant and rave to your wife and we happen to rant and rave in front of you [media] guys. That's not great, but it happens. Then you get back and figure this out."
Last month, Bryant publicly challenged Lakers management to decide "what they're going to do with Mike [D'Antoni]."
Kupchak on Friday downplayed those comments when asked if he was concerned about the relationship between the 62-year-old coach and the 35-year-old guard moving forward.
"I've been around Kobe long enough to know how he thinks, and I'm not really that concerned about it," Kupchak said.
D'Antoni said that he and Bryant can find a common ground through their shared competitive nature.
"One thing that I know is that he will do everything to win, and as a coach that's kind of all you can ask for," D'Antoni said.
While D'Antoni has been the target of many fans' ire this season, Kupchak contended that they might be misguided.
"We care about what our fans think," Kupchak said. "We think they're great fans and they support us. And we are going to try to give them something better and better every year. But a lot of times, at the end of the day, we're forced to make decisions quickly and sometimes decisions on information that we have that a lot of our fans don't have. Sometimes that decision might not be what the fan wants. But over the course of time, I think they've come to trust us, that it will be the right decision."
As far as D'Antoni is concerned, he will continue to have a chance to prove the Lakers right in their decision to hire him.
"I have one or two years left, depending on how you look at it," D'Antoni said. "I'm their coach."
The worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history ended. Two days of exit interviews ensued. And Mike D'Antoni walked out of the Lakers' practice facility Friday with his job still in place as the coach of the league's marquee team.