Is Los Angeles Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni the Worst Coach in the NBA?

By Lucas Rubio
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers fans have been calling for Mike D’Antoni’s firing pretty much ever since the Lakers hired him after firing Mike Brown at the beginning of the 2012-13 Season.

Fans have something to complain about. Since his era with the Phoenix SunsD’Antoni has yet to have any success as a head coach. Sure, D’Antoni won NBA Coach of the Year back in 2005, but what has he done since?

After leaving Phoenix in 2008, D’Antoni went on to basically destroy the New York Knicks’ hopes of finally winning another championship. In their first season, D’Antoni and the Knicks finished 32-50. The Knicks started the next season worse than they ever had before, losing nine of their first 10 games.

That same season, the Knicks also suffered their worst home loss in Madison Square Garden history and in Knicks franchise history, losing by 50 points to the Dallas Mavericks. D’Antoni’s career with the Knicks did not get any better before he finally resigned in 2012.

For some reason, Jim Buss hired D’Antoni. Apparently, he thought reuniting D’Antoni with Steve Nash would somehow bring back Showtime. Far from it. D’Antoni led the Lakers to one of their worst seasons ever. They nearly missed the playoffs for the first time since 1957.

But D’Antoni’s failures with the Lakers are evidenced in more than just the stats — his failures also represent his lack of basketball acumen. For example, last season’s Lakers had both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, two of arguably the best big men in the NBA. Yet D’Antoni neglected both Howard and Gasol by instead insisting on running an offensive system that relied on jump shooting, and ignored Howard’s and Gasol’s post-up talents.

Besides Nash, the Lakers had poor jump shooters, and even Nash is perhaps most effective as a passer and ball-handler rather than as a jump shooter. D’Antoni basically decided to run an offense that concentrated on the Lakers’ greatest weaknesses while purposefully ignoring the Lakers’ greatest strengths.

That is one reason why Howard decided to leave L.A. and sign with the Houston Rockets. Howard spoke out about his dislike of playing for D’Antoni, and I understood his frustration.

D’Antoni’s also to blame for ending Kobe Bryant’s season and potentially jeopardizing Bryant’s Hall-of-Fame career when he played Bryant more than 45 minutes per game for five consecutive games last year, until Bryant tore his Achilles.

Other than his success in Phoenix, D’Antoni has proven to be one of the worst coaches in the NBA. The records for historically bad seasons that he set in New York and L.A. testify to his ineptitude. And even in Phoenix, how much of the Suns’ success is owed to D’Antoni, and how much is actually owed to Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire?

D’Antoni’s worse than a bad coach — he’s a dangerous one. He risks players’ health, his ignorance forces talents like Howard to sign with other teams, and his unwillingness to change his offensive system to conform to the team’s talents angers fans and players alike and thus jeopardizes the credibility of that franchise.

Although he’s a bad and dangerous coach, the Lakers recent failures are not all D’Antoni’s fault. The person who deserves most of the blame may actually be Jim Buss. Because after all, Buss was the one who hired D’Antoni.

Lucas Rubio is a columnist for and author of the Playerz League Sports Blog. Follow him on Twitter @PlayerzLeague.

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