Mike D’Antoni expected to be the Lakers coach about as much as you expected him to be the Lakers coach.
Which is to say, not at all.
He had a Saturday phone interview with the Lakers. After his awkward stint in New York, his next gig might not be a plum one. But late Sunday night things changed and he opened up to Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News about it in his first interview since getting the job. After his Saturday interview he thought what everyone did — Phil Jackson was going to be the next Lakers coach.
“Sure I did,” he said. “For sure I did. Didn’t everybody? When I got the call that it was me, my first reaction was, ‘Are you serious?’”
D’Antoni takes over for Mike Brown, who was fired because he started 1-4 and the Lakers finally saw what had been evident for a while — they wanted to win right now and he might well not be the guy who could do that.
D’Antoni gets a team with his old running mate from Phoenix in Steve Nash, plus Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. And he gets expectations and pressure, although after four years in New York that is something he is more used to.
“I am so happy to be back with Steve Nash,” D’Antoni is saying late on Monday morning. “To get one more chance to have him run the thing the way he did for me before (in Phoenix), well, that’s the kind of thing you never think is going to happen. But now it has…
“I like this team,” D’Antoni said. “We’re good, and we’re gonna get better.”
That’s just what Lakers fans and the Buss family wants to hear. Now he just has to deliver.