Generally a good rule of thumb is that if you’re the coach of the Boston Celtics you shouldn’t comment on the Lakers coaching search. It’s pretty much Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commenting on the U.S. Presidential election — nobody should care what he thinks.
But Doc Rivers spoke for a lot of Lakers fans when he commented on the firing of Mike Brown, the awkward dance with Phil Jackson then the hiring of Mike D’Antoni on Chris Russo’s radio program (SirusXM’s Mad Dog Radio) on Tuesday, as transcribed by the Los Angeles Times.
“I didn’t like the way it was done,” said Rivers. “I don’t think you embarrass anybody….
“Whether you like Phil or not, he’s won a lot of titles and I think he was owed more than that treatment, in my opinion, especially [from] that franchise,” continued Rivers.
He’s right. You can make the case that Mike D’Antoni was the right hire, but it’s how everything went down that was awkward.
The Lakers thought — and GM Mitch Kupchak confirmed — that they didn’t think Phil Jackson would want the job. Jackson had said the summer before at a lunch with Kupchak that he didn’t think he would coach again. So Jim Buss and the Lakers went to him, figured he’d say no, then they could tell fans “hey we tried, but here is D’Antoni and he rocks.” But Jackson surprised them by wanting the job and then Buss was forced to choose — and he was never a Phil Jackson guy. It ended poorly and he couldn’t come back to him now hat in hand. So Jim Buss made his call.
The difference is, Jerry Buss played chess in these situations. He was never perfect, but he had thought everything three moves ahead. He was prepared for eventualities. Jerry Buss wouldn’t have waited until five games in for an awkward in-season change. He wouldn’t have gone to Jackson at all if that’s not the guy he wanted.
And he wouldn’t have hung Jackson out to dry. Doc is right about how it turned out.