Phil Jackson on Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni: ‘I laughed’
Phil Jackson was probably as stunned as the rest of us when the Los Angeles Lakers decided to go with Mike D’Antoni rather than bringing him back as their heard coach, whether he is willing to admit that or not. You would think a guy who has won five championships with a franchise would be able to return to the bench anytime he wanted, but that was not the case.
However, LA’s decision to hire D’Antoni instead of him did serve as a source of entertainment for the Zen Master.
“I laughed,” Jackson told ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on Wednesday when asked what he said when the Lakers informed him they had hired D’Antoni. “It was humorous to me when Mitch (Kupchack) said that we think that Mike is a better coach for this group of guys.”
Jackson said he understood that the decision probably had a lot to do with D’Antoni’s history with Steve Nash in Phoenix, but he had his doubts about whether or not Dwight Howard would be properly utilized.
“I think it didn’t happen because there was some concern about how we were going to move in the right direction for this ballclub” Jackson said. “When Mitch gave me the call close to midnight on Sunday night right before I was going to give them an answer Monday morning and said, ‘We’ve made a choice. We’re going to hire Mike D’Antoni. We think he’s the best coach for this group of guys,’ My answer was, ‘For Steve Nash, yes, I agree, but for Dwight Howard, I’m not so sure.'”
Considering we recently learned that Howard may be unhappy with the way things went under D’Antoni this season, Jackson may be onto something. D’Antoni even admitted last month that he did not use Howard and Pau Gasol the right way, which is exactly why Jackson feels he could have been the better man for the job.
“They wanted to move to a quicker, 3-point-oriented game, which is kind of the rage right now in the NBA,” Jackson said. “I felt like with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard we could emulate a lot of what we did with Andrew Bynum and Pau and pound the ball inside and have an interior game that was strong. But it was their choice, and that’s all right with me.”
If Jackson was desperate to coach, teams would be lining up. He said that he does not see himself coaching again, so it’s possible the Lakers did him a favor by going in another direction earlier this year. Given the injuries LA dealt with this season, I doubt even Phil could have coached them into championship contention.