After the Lakers fired Mike Brown the prevailing thought, by many, was that the Lakers had a contingency plan in place. Contingency planning is critical for long-term success of any business. Make no mistake there was a plan in place and that two-part plan was how do we deal with the public relations nightmare of not hiring Phil Jackson, and how do we convince the fan base that Mike D’Antoni is the better choice for this roster.
Mike D’Antoni is an offensive genius with a high-flying offense that fact is undisputable, but the Lakers settled for him as oppose to making the obvious choice of hiring Phil Jackson. The Lakers chose style over substance. However, what is disputable and definitely up for debate is if he is the coach to lead the Lakers to a championship.
The hiring of D’Antoni would have been a solid hire if a guy like Nate McMillan would have been hired to be his defensive coordinator. D’Antoni refused to hire a defensive coordinator in Phoenix, New York and the results were disastrous.
D’Antoni has coached Steve Nash for years in Phoenix, further developed his relationship Kobe Bryant that started years ago in Italy and Dwight Howard in Olympic competition. There is a perception that D’Antoni will bring back “Showtime” to L.A. running his “7 seconds or less offense”. The reality is that the Lakers will run an up-tempo offense based on spacing, ball movement and getting one good shot in 24-seconds.
Steve Nash and Chris Duhon know the offense D’Antoni runs and Nash will run the show, but the two biggest questions are can the Lakers still get out in transition and do they have wing players that can knock down outside shots. It is obvious that waiting is not an option and that the organization wanted a coach capable to leading this group to a championship.
The Lakers then settled on D’Antoni, who was just as surprised as anyone. Several people felt the job was Phil Jackson’s to turn down. This hire is successful only if the Lakers are holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy at the season’s end. There were several names on the Lakers short list, but that list was actually Phil Jackson and the alternatives. The Lakers brain trust (Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak) dropped the ball in that try and settled on of the alternatives.
Lakers Vice President Jim Buss needed to put his ego aside and help the organization hire a championship caliber coach. We will have to use the wait and see approach to answer that question. To appease Laker Nation the purple and gold brain trust spoke with Phil Jackson and expected a decision on the spot.
The new hire presented Jim Buss with a chance to take a step back, view the situation differently and have a moment of clarity. The Lakers mortgaged the future to land a $100-million roster as well as a $30-million luxury tax you would imagine that the organization would hire the best coach to lead that team.
Rumor has it that Jackson demanded between $10 -15 million per season, more say over basketball decisions and an ownership stake. If the rumors are true history tells us that the above amount is Phil Jackson’s going rate and for the Lakers it would have been money well spent. The Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni is a purple and gold power move, Jim Buss has Laker power as long as Phil Jackson is not there.
There is a strange dynamic in the power struggle on one hand the Phil Jackson a Hall of Fame coach, arguably the greatest coach ever, with which there is no doubt that he can lead this team to a championship. Jackson is dating your sister and has earned all the accolades that he received. On the other hand is Jim Buss who has power because he is one of Jerry Buss’ sons.
Phil Jackson is a great coach and engaging personality that commands the room. Jim is a member of the Buss family without any accomplishments. The real question is if the plan was to hire Mike D’Antoni, why talk to Phil Jackson at all? What is there to gain by publicly humiliating a Hall of Fame coach who has won 11- NBA Championships and five with your organization?
There is no doubt that Phil Jackson would have the Lakers in contention for a championship. Consequently, with Mike D’Antoni the only guarantee you will receive is an offense that lights up the scoreboard. Lakers fans have no choice, but to exhibit patience in waiting to see in the D’Antoni project works out for their team.