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What the heck is going on in Lakerland? We were all ready to hear the great Zen Master was back, but instead we wake up this morning to hear the Los Angeles Lakers have named Mike D'Antoni their new head coach.
D'Antoni will take over a team that has won two straight games since the firing of Mike Brown after a 1-4 start.
The Lakers said D'Antoni has signed a multi-year contract. The Los Angeles Times reported the deal to be worth $12 million over three years with a club option for a fourth season.
There was speculation the Lakers would bring Phil Jackson back for a third time, actually more than just speculation...we heard it was Phil's job to turn down. The team's statement said owner Dr. Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak "were unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."
Bernie Bickerstaff has guided the Lakers to wins over Golden State and Sacramento as interim coach. The Times said Bickerstaff would remain in that role until D'Antoni takes over, possibly within a week or two. D'Antoni is recovering from knee replacement surgery.
D'Antoni has previously been the head coach for Denver, Phoenix and most recently the New York Knicks. He resigned as Knicks head coach last March with team just 18-24, and was 121-167 in nearly four full seasons with New York.
The 61-year-old has a record of 388-339 in 10 seasons as a head coach. His first chance came with Denver in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign, but he was there for just that season after a 14-36 mark.
D'Antoni then flourished in five seasons with Phoenix from 2003-04 through 2007-08, guiding the Suns to the playoffs four times. They reached the Western Conference finals twice during his tenure, losing to San Antonio in the spring of 2005 and falling to Dallas the following year.
Current Lakers guard Steve Nash led D'Antoni's high-powered offense in Phoenix and was the league MVP in 2004-05 and 2005-06....yes about 6 years ago!!!!!
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant also worked with D'Antoni this summer on the U.S. Olympic team. D'Antoni was an assistant coach for a team that won the gold medal at the London Games.
Phil though, was considered the clear front-runner for the job. According to various reports, he had a list of demands that ranged from not traveling with the club on certain road trips to skipping shoot-arounds. Not much to ask after handing the Lakers 5 world championships...we'll have to see how this plays out.