New L.A. Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni (Photo Credit: Justin Lane / EPA / November 12, 2012)
Though crowds chanted his name and speculation ran rampant, the Zen Master, Phil Jackson will not be rejoining the Los Angeles as head coach; instead, the organization has hired veteran coach Mike D’Antoni to replace coach Mike Brown who lead the team to 1-4 before he was fired on Friday, reports the Los Angeles Times.
According to agent Warren LeGarie, D’Antoni signed a 3-year, $12 million dollar deal.
D’Antoni coached for one season with the Denver Nuggets, five with the Phoenix Suns and three-plus, through last season, with the New York Knicks.
The former Suns coach still has strong bond with his former player and new Laker, Steve Nash.
“Obviously I think everyone knows how much I love Mike,” said Nash last week. “If [D’Antoni] were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”
“They know how I feel about Phil. They know how I feel about D’Antoni,” [Kobe] Bryant said Sunday. “I like them both.”
Bryant became familiar as a boy with D’Antoni, who was a star in the Italian league in the 1980s, when Bryant’s father also played in Italy. D’Antoni helped Olimpia Milano win five league titles and two European club titles. D’Antoni also worked with Bryant on the U.S. national team as an assistant.
Fun Fact: Kobe's favorite Italian player growing up was Mike D'Antoni & was the reason Kobe wore #8.
Ripples of excitement flooded Lake Show fans at the thought of Jackson returning for two more seasons, possibly leading the team to their 6th — and possibly 7th — championship under his guidance. According to various reports, the Lakers organization could not meet his demands, including travel restrictions and a stake in team ownership. A source close to the situation said Jackson was “asking for the moon.”
All eyes will be on Mike D’Antoni to see if he can pull Kobe & Co. out of their slump.