EL SEGUNDO (CNS) – The Los Angeles Lakers will introduce Mike D’Antoni as their coach today, one day after his selection drew criticism from Laker legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, now a team vice president.
“To me, they’ve made two critical mistakes,” Johnson said Wednesday on ESPN’s “KIA NBA Countdown” pregame show, where he is an analyst.
“First hiring Mike Brown. He wasn’t the right coach. He’s a great coach, but not the right coach for the Lakers. And I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers, especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach and Jim Buss decided he didn’t want Phil Jackson, he wanted Mike D’Antoni.”
Jim Buss is the team’s executive vice president of player personnel and a son of owner Jerry Buss.
Johnson later said, “Love Dr. Buss, I don’t believe in Jim Buss.”
The Lakers hired D’Antoni Sunday, two days after Brown was fired following the team’s 1-4 start.
“After speaking with several excellent and well-respected coaching candidates, Dr. Buss, Jim and I all agreed that Mike was the right person at this time to lead the Lakers forward,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “Knowing our style of play and given the current makeup of our roster, we feel Mike is a great fit, are excited to have him and hope he will help our team reach its full potential.”
D’Antoni agreed to a three-year contract worth $12 million with a team option for a fourth season, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Laker all-star guard Kobe Bryant called D’Antoni “an offensive genius.”
“The offense that he installed for our U.S. team is the offense that we’ve run to the tune of two gold medals,” said Bryant, who played on the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams; D’Antoni was an assistant coach.
“We all know the type of talent we have on that team so it was important for us to have an offense that was flexible, that was open, that kept everybody involved,” Bryant said.
Bryant said the Lakers will “be fine” under D’Antoni, who Bryant saw play in the 1980s in Italy while his father, Joe, was also playing in the Italian professional league.
“He can use Steve (Nash) to his greatest advantages and me to mine and Dwight (Howard) to his and Pau (Gasol) to his,” Bryant said.
D’Antoni coached the New York Knicks from the start of the 2008-2009 season before resigning March 12 when the team was 18-24. He was named coach of the Phoenix Suns 22 games into the 2003-2004 season, remaining with the team through the 2007-2008 season.
D’Antoni began his NBA head coaching career by coaching the Denver Nuggets during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. His career regular-season record is 388-339, a .534 winning percentage, and has a 26-29 career record in the playoffs, a .473 winning percentage.