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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Lakers Choose D'Antoni as New Head Coach

Phil Jackson's lofty demands may have led the Lakers to go with Mike D'Antoni.

In a surprise twist, the Los Angeles Lakers have chosen Mike D’Antoni to succeed Mike Brown, who was fired last Friday.

Fans and league experts believed former Lakers coach Phil Jackson would be making a return.  However, D’Antoni’s agent confirmed late Sunday night that the former Suns and Knicks head coach had agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a team option for a fourth season. 

ESPN Los Angeles reported that a league source who wished to left unnamed says that Jackson was “stunned” that the Lakers chose D’Antoni over him, and was under the impression that the job “was his to turn down.”

Sources say a big reason Jackson was not hired was his list of demands, which according to the L.A. Times included a stake in team ownership as well as the ability to miss select away games.

The Lakers released a statement saying that team owner Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss, and general manager Mitch Kupchak were “unanimous that D’Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time.”

D’Antoni has a history with a few of the Lakers stars.   While growing up in Italy, Bryant looked up to D’Antoni, who was a star in the Italian basketball league in the 1980’s.  Though the Lakers captain had been campaigning for Phil Jackson, with whom he has won five NBA titles, Bryant still has high hopes for his new coach.

“I love PJ [Phil Jackson] but I’m very excited about D’Antoni,” Bryant said.

New Lakers point guard Steve Nash had some success with Mike D’Antoni while the two were with the Phoenix Suns from 2003 to 2008.  Nash won MVP twice under D’Antoni and the Suns went to the Western Conference finals in the five-year period. 

“Obviously I think everyone knows how much I love Mike,” Nash said Sunday night before D’Antoni was hired.  “If [D’Antoni] were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”

Since Mike Brown was fired on Friday, the Lakers are 2-0 under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.  Bickerstaff is expected to continue his role as head coach until the 61-year-old D’Antoni, who is recovering from knee surgery, is physically ready to coach. 

The Lakers are set to host the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night.  

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