D'Antoni addresses Calipari rumor

Updated: April 8, 2014, 7:47 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After hearing the rumor Monday night that John Calipari would be replacing him on the Los Angeles Lakers' sideline next season, Mike D'Antoni actually felt sympathy for the Kentucky coach.

"You deal with it, and I hate it for John more than anybody because that puts an undue pressure on something before a big game that he doesn't need to be distracted with," D'Antoni said after the Lakers' shootaround Tuesday.

Kentucky lost to UConn 60-54 in the NCAA men's basketball national championship game Monday night, just hours after former Kentucky star and current Wildcats TV color commentator Rex Chapman tweeted that Calipari would leave Kentucky to coach the Lakers next season.

Both Calipari and the Lakers denied the validity of the story, with Calipari telling ESPN's Jeannine Edwards that he would "absolutely" be back at Kentucky, and the Lakers telling ESPN and other media outlets that it was simply "untrue."

Chapman joined "The Dan Patrick Show" on Tuesday to clarify his remarks, saying he now believes Calipari is likely to stay with the Wildcats. He also said Calipari could be bargaining to get more money from Kentucky.

D'Antoni said it was "great" that the Lakers quashed the story, but understands that unsubstantiated rumors will come up in today's media landscape.

"That's kind of the world we live in," D'Antoni said. "Where before, what, three years ago, it would just be a little rumor that one person heard. Now, a million hear it. That's just the way the world is. It's social media and people run with it and whether it means anything or not, it's not really up to me anyway. So, you just go on. It's not a big deal."

D'Antoni, who dealt with rampant rumors concerning his job status in his days with the New York Knicks, has developed a thick skin. But even that can be penetrated.

"You try not to hear the noise, although yesterday was deafening so you could not not hear it," D'Antoni said. "I live in a cocoon but I still live in the same country, so you did hear it.

"But it's part of our business. And if you don't like that and if you can't take it, then don't be in our business. And if you can't get up the next day and do your job, then go find another job."

LeBron James, speaking Tuesday before the Heat's game against the Brooklyn Nets in Miami, said he would be surprised if Calipari "made the jump."

"Because of the simple fact that he loves coaching kids and helping them out," said James, who has been close with Calipari for 10 years. "Whether it's for one year or how ever long they're there, he loves the challenge of bringing in a group of guys and trying to turn them into a team.

"It's almost Olympic style the way he coaches," James said. "He doesn't have much time, because he has so many guys that can go one-and-done, and he brings those individual egos and brings them the team aspect. Does it work out all the time? No. Last year they didn't make the tournament. But his success rate is amazing."

Whether Calipari ends up as D'Antoni's replacement, the story exemplified just how hot the seat is becoming for the Lakers' coach these days. D'Antoni has gone 65-87 (.428) in just less than two seasons with the team. Yet, he has another year on his contract, set to pay him $4 million guaranteed, and the Lakers have a team option for the following season.

Is all of the talk about his job being in jeopardy warranted, considering all of the injuries the Lakers have sustained?

"It's all relative," said Steve Nash, who will play against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday along with Jordan Farmar off the bench. "With the amount of injuries and the rebuilding and evaluating different players, I don't know that any coach is going to have a successful run over this season.

"And last year, I know we had some difficulties as well, but we played some winning basketball for long stretches, which he deserves some credit for ... [Even] John Wooden is not going to be dealt a great hand with all the change and injuries we've had. I mean, you look at it, every week someone else goes down. So, it's a tough situation. I think people have to realize. Although I understand he's not Phil [Jackson], someone who is beloved and been extremely successful here, it's not been kind of a fair fight in some respects."

Fair or not, D'Antoni did not complain about his lot.

"Nobody is really happy with the way the record has gone or the way things went this year, but at the same time you try to keep blinders on and do your job day to day and quarter to quarter," D'Antoni said. "Don't look at the big picture. Look at small, little victories as you can and go on.

"I don't think we approached any day, or any practice or any film session differently than if you're 50-20 or if you're 20-50. So, it doesn't change."

And if D'Antoni has only a handful of games remaining in his coaching career with the Lakers as they finish out their final five games, he'll relish each one just the same.

"Look, it's still a great job," he said. "We've got a great business. We have great guys on the team. So it's not that hard. I'm not going to sit here and cry and stuff. That doesn't do any good, and it's not what these players need."

Information from ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst was used in this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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