One more time down this well traveled road….
We all pretty much know how the Lakers hiring of Mike D’Antoni went down at this point: In short, Jim Buss wants to bring back more of a “ShowTime” feel and wanted to hire D’Antoni, they went through the motions with Phil Jackson thinking he wouldn’t want the job (he had told Mitch Kupchak over the summer he was done coaching), but when Jackson expressed real interest the PR game got away from the Lakers’ brass. Lakers’ fans wanted Jackson, they got D’Antoni who, you have to admit even if you think he’s a good coach (and I do), was a terrible fit for that roster.
Now Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss has updated her memoir “Laker Girl” and included this incident in it (remember she runs the business side of the Lakers with no input on the basketball side, as her father set it up in his trust). The Los Angeles Times published an excerpt on Sunday, starting with the famed late-night call on a Sunday night (after a Saturday meeting) where Kupchak told Jackson they were hiring D’Antoni.
When he hung up, I asked him what that was about, and he said, “Mitch called to tell me they’ve hired D’Antoni. He said that they feel given the personnel they have that D’Antoni is a better fit. He said they know they are going to take a bit of a PR hit, but he thinks it will blow over in a month.”
“He said it will blow over in a month?” I repeated in disbelief….
The sequence of events — Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job — practically destroyed me. It almost took away my passion for this job and this game. It felt like I had been stabbed in the back. It was a betrayal. I was devastated.
I felt that I got played. Why did they have to do that? Why did Jim pull Phil back into the mix if he wasn’t sincere about it? .
In the excerpt (and you should read the whole thing, Lakers fans) Jeanie pushes back on the idea that Jackson wanted part ownership of the team or had asked for a ridiculous salary. What we all need to remember during these types of negotiations is everybody spins the story. Everybody. If you want Phil Jackson to look over the top, you say he was asking for the moon.
Not that Lakers fans really ever bought it. The bottom line is they trust Jackson in a way they do not Jim Buss right now, because they know how involved Jackson was in getting them rings.
As I’ve written before, the D’Antoni hiring and Dwight Howard leaving (those two things are certainly linked) are not what will define the Jim Buss legacy — what he does the next five years will (or at least be the foundation of it).
He wants what his father had not long after he purchased the team in 1979 — to both win and be entertaining doing it. Can that be replicated? Jeanie isn’t sold.
The story going around is that my dad pushed for D’Antoni because he wanted to go back to playing Showtime basketball. But there was only one Showtime, never to be replicated. My dad knew that.