Mike D’Antoni is in the midst of guiding this version of the Lakers to one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and even though he has two years left on his deal, only one of them is guaranteed, and his future in Los Angeles couldn’t possibly be less certain once this current campaign comes to its merciful conclusion on April 16.
L.A. may decide to retain D’Antoni next year if the team is unable to sign any impactful free agents this summer, because it wouldn’t make sense to pay two head coaches if the club is expected to miss the postseason with a below average year once again. But that’s a bit of a long shot at this point, as the stench of this dreadful season needs to be washed away, with a coaching change promising fans a clean slate heading into next year, if nothing else.
D’Antoni has a certain level of cache in the coaching ranks, however, so even if the Lakers decide it’s time to part ways, he will have other options. And that apparently extends to the college ranks, as well.
Marshall University has reached out to Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to gauge his interest in coaching his alma mater, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Thundering Herd have pursued D’Antoni before and made this latest inquiry — which coincides with his uncertain future in Los Angeles — because they “always sound him out” any time Marshall has an opening in a bow to D’Antoni’s stature in school history.
But sources stressed D’Antoni is highly unlikely to make such a switch even if the Lakers opt for a change at season’s end. Although he has served as an unofficial sounding board for school officials in the past, D’Antoni has coached only at the pro level, with three stops in Italy and stints with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Lakers in the NBA.
“I would think his days are numbered based on Kobe saying he had no interest in playing for him next year,” a source told CBSSports.com. “If he isn’t with the Lakers, I believe he will be at Marshall because there is mutual interest.”
D’Antoni’s style actually seems geared toward the college game, with coaches at that level acting as dictators where players are all expected to fall in line, no questions asked. Historically, D’Antoni has had communication issues with players not believed to be in his inner circle, and his straight forward yet sarcastic remarks would be a huge hit at the college level.
The system D’Antoni runs might also be better suited to the college game at this point, but it’s difficult to envision that we’d ever get to find out if it would indeed be a success. It’s unclear how well he’d be able to recruit players, or how much interest he’d have in even doing so — and that’s really what college hoops is about for head coaches, more than anything else.