The ink is barely dry on Mike D’Antoni’s new three-year deal to be the Los Angeles Lakers next coach, but that doesn’t mean we can’t quickly examine if the hiring was the right decision or not. Since Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson was reportedly asking for the world and then some to return for his third stint with the team, Lakers management moved as quickly to hire the next candidate to replace Mike Brown as they did to fire him after a 1-4 start this season, and many believe D’Antoni isn’t a much better option than his predecessor.
D’Antoni’s resume is decent – we can’t deny that. But, so was Mike Brown’s. Take a closer look, and Mike Brown’s resume and career .653 winning percentage and two trips to the NBA Finals is actually more impressive than the man who is replacing him. That said, a resume doesn’t tell the whole picture.
Bringing in D’Antoni immediately points to a change of offensive philosophy, as D’Antoni’s past teams have been powerhouses on the offensive side of the court (an average off. ranking of 6.7 under D’Antoni). Maybe D’Antoni will install an offense with more pick-and-rolls and simple scoring opportunities for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and company. That change alone will almost certainly make them a more efficient team, as well as keep the players happy and the fans entertained.
But what of the Lakers’ defense?
The Lakers are an intelligent veteran team, but their team speed leaves much to be desired. Not to mention, the players didn’t respond to Brown’s supposed defensive expertise. What points to a different result with D’Antoni at the helm? The Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks had an average defensive rating ranked 19th in the league in D’Antoni’s full seasons as their head coach. That isn’t exactly a ranking to hang your hat on.
The Lakers are a franchise that currently needs a head coach who can not only manage the X’s and O’s, but can also manage the personalities of such a high-profile locker room. The Lakers franchise also requires a head coach who can successfully curve the demands of the intense Los Angeles fan base, something that Mike Brown struggled with in his tenure as the Lakers’ head coach.
Brown was a good coach-as his 47-36 record in 83 games (including the playoffs) coaching the Lakers indicates. But he wasn’t good enough for the Lakers. The same can be said for Mike D’Antoni; he’s a good coach, but whether or not he is the right coach for the Los Angeles Lakers franchise remains to be seen.