Mike D’Antoni doesn’t get it.
His off-the-cuff style might work with players, and I’m sure the media loves it.
But after the Lakers lost by 27 points to the Suns on Monday, a game following a 19-point loss to the Warriors, D’Antoni went after the fans.
Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com (emphasis mine):
Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was defiant when a reporter suggested fans have become “discouraged” by the team’s 13-15 start to the season.”Why would I be discouraged?” D’Antoni said. “We’re fighting with a bunch of good guys that played well before and they’ll play [well] again. If [the fans] are discouraged, then, you know, find another team to root for. I’m all right. We’re not going to give up. Are you kidding me? Discouraged? That’s not even fair to these guys.”
D’Antoni can be encouraged and keep everyone going with positive vibes. He can be discouraged and motivate his players with negativity. It doesn’t matter, in a grander sense, which direction he chooses to take the team. That’s his call.
But he never should tell fans to go away for simply being frustrated.
The Lakers bring in massive sums of money – money that pays D’Antoni’s salary – because they have fans. Those fans buy tickets and merchandise. They view advertisements that bring money to the Lakers directly from in-arena advertisers and indirectly through TV and radio deals.
That money does not give fans an absolute right to say and do whatever they want. But getting frustrated with a struggling team? That’s well within their rights, and they don’t deserve a coach – whose salary they’re paying – to tell them otherwise.
D’Antoni should apologize. Today.
He can stick up for his players. He can explain why fans shouldn’t be frustrated – he’s definitely allowed to make his case, which he already began to do in the non-bolded portion of the excerpted quote. But he also must say he doesn’t want them to stop supporting the team.
The Lakers are a business, and that business is predicated on drawing fans. D’Antoni’s main job is to implicitly draw fans by winning, because fans flock to winners. He doesn’t need to shill actively for fans to spend money on the team.
But he can’t go as far as brazenly and overtly alienating the team’s customers.