UPDATE 11:01 pm: Shockingly, it took almost no time for the Lakers to try and shoot this down. From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
“I spoke to [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak and he said the rumor is untrue,” Lakers spokesman John Black said. “Mike D’Antoni is our coach. There have been no conversations about any specific names for any replacement.”
After the game John Calipari was asked about the rumors and… what did you expect him to say?
Two quick thoughts here:
First, the phrasing of that last sentence by the Lakers’ Black sure makes it sounds like the Lakers are thinking about moving on from D’Antoni after this season. Which is what a lot of the players and pretty much every Lakers’ fan wants. The Lakers may not want to pay two coaches at once, Mitch Kupchak may want to keep D’Antoni around, but someone’s head has to role for the worst season the Lakers have ever had in Los Angeles and D’Antoni is the likely candidate.
Second, just a reminder that how these kinds of things work: It all starts with back channel communications, where someone with ties to Calipari and someone with ties to the Lakers have an unofficial conversation. That may well have happened, initiated by either side. There may even be a level of mutual interest, and if so the talks move up the chain of command. But the real negotiations and decisions — with the real decision makers involved — are not going to come before the Lakers’ season ends, and likely not until after Kentucky players decide who is going into the draft and who is staying for another year. There is a lot of time, a lot details still to work out on both sides (including money), and a lot of things that can derail a deal. Which is to say nothing is anywhere near set in stone.
10:33 pm: Remember when Pete Carroll broke the Phil Jackson-to-New York story?
This isn’t quite as weird a connection, but former Kentucky star Rex Chapman is tweeting John Calipari will leave the Wildcats for the Lakers after tonight’s NCAA championship game (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball):
Even if the Lakers are leaning toward keeping D’Antoni, there’s clear division on that among the team’s players. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill have all reportedly had rifts with the coach. It would make sense they’re looking around.
And it would make sense Calipari wants to move on. The beauty of his one-and-done model is most of his team would be going with him, and I’m sure he’d be temped by an NBA job – especially in Los Angeles.
But Chapman’s tweets do not a credible rumor make.
Chapman has never been afraid to speak his mind, and he’s not a trained reporter with a background in evaluating the reliability of sources. Not that I have a reason to doubt him, but I have absolutely no reason to trust him on this.
Look, Calipari could coach the Lakers next season. I’d be surprised if it’s already agreed upon, though.
I’d be even more surprised if Chapman were the first to know with enough certainty to say so publicly.