Amidst rumors of the Los Angeles Lakers tapping Phil Jackson as head coach along with Scottie Pippen for assistant, the franchise debunked them by announcing that former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks’ head Mike D’Antoni would be coming to the west side.
In a statement released by the team, Lakers spokesperson John Black said team owner 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.” Mike replaces ex-head coach Mike Brown who was hired five games into the 2012-13 season.
Even the players seem to co-sign. “I love PJ but I’m very excited about D’Antoni,” Laker star Kobe Bryant told ESPN.
According to D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, said that he has a four-year contract. A source says that his three-year deal is worth $12 million while the fourth year is a club option.
The deal was signed around 11:30pm PT after negotiations with Phil Jackson fell apart. He was reportedly “stunned” when he got the call that D’Antoni was taking the job after prepping to accept the position Monday.
D’Antoni is reportedly suffering from a knee injury and has not been cleared to travel, sources say. He plans to bring two longtime aids with him to the team including older bro and assistant coach Dan D’Antoni and Phil Weber.
The biggest draw to bring D’Antoni to LA is his experience with newly minted Laker Steve Nash, who won two MVP awards under five seasons of D’Antoni’s coaching.
“Obviously everyone knows how much I love Mike,” Nash said Sunday night prior to D’Antoni’s signing. “If [D’Antoni] were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”
The move comes as surprising news given that after a string of losses while leading the NY Knicks, D’Antoni stepped down from his position. The Lakers plan to hold a press conference Tuesday or Wednesday to make the official announcement.
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