Like most other Lakers (and NBA fans in general), I had only one reaction when Mike D’Antoni was hired as the head coach; “Huh, really…? What happened to Phil?” Well Phil isn’t here, and he’s not coming (at least not in the near future anyway). For better or worse, the head coach of the LA Lakers is Mike D’Antoni. Though I saw for better or worse, thus far we have yet to see the better, and have been forced to deal with the worse.
MDA was brought in for 1 reason only; bring back Showtime. So far, he has brilliantly failed at that feat, and there is no reason to believe he will succeed any time soon. He doesn’t deserve all the blame though; in the ever-evolving transition/running game the NBA is quickly becoming, it is understandably difficult for players 35+ to keep up with players 10 years their junior. MDA was not the coach the Lakers needed, but that blame I feel falls squarely on the shoulders of Jim Buss, which an entirely different story altogether.
The problem with MDA is that, first of all, he is not a very good coach. He has one offense, the pick & roll, which he did run to perfection in his glory days in Phoenix with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire (again, a big reason he was hired once the Lakers signed Nash). MDA has proven to be very stubborn; again, though the Lakers greatly struggled to adapt to his offense, he never seemed willing to adapt/adjust his offense to his players strengths. Instead, he expected his players to adjust to him, which maybe they would have, had he given them the chance. Unfortunately, when a player struggled with the offense, he was benched during key stretches (Pau Gasol). I won’t get into MDA’s defense, because frankly, I’m pretty sure the word is not in his vocabulary.
Normally, I wouldn’t get into a coach’s reputation, but I feel in this case, it is warranted. I said to myself the day Mike Brown was fired, the Lakers next coach needs to be someone whose resume alone commands respect upon entering the locker room. That, again, is not MDA, as I feel he is not very well respected in the league at all, and even less so now. When your starting 5 consists of 4 future hall of fame players, you need to either prove yourself to them immediately, or have already earned their respect through reputation alone. George Carl, Jerry Sloan, Doc Rivers, Greg Popovich…MDA is not in the same conversation as those coaches.
The current presence of MDA might also easily cost the Lakers their immediate future. It’s no secret they are banking heavily on free agent center Dwight Howard re-signing long-term with the team. It is also no secret Howard is not a member of MDA’s fan club. He has strongly indicated that if MDA is coaching next season, it could be one of the strongest factors of Howard leaving LA. Howard wants to play in an offense where the ball goes through him, and he is surrounded by shooters. As stated above, that is not MDA’s offense, and he has shown no inclination to change it to help Howard showcase his skills.
The Lakers have openly backed MDA, and stated he is their coach (probably because they don’t want to be on the hook for 2 coaches in as many years). However, what they need to remember is that basketball is, above all else, a business, and fans pay to see players, not coaches. The longer MDA is head coach, the more the team will likely struggle under him, and the more they risk losing out on future free agents.