Mike D'Antoni may be the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but there's one former team legend that didn't want him hired. In an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Magic Johnson gushed about Phil Jackson and how wrong Mike Brown was for the job.
In the interview, Johnson cited Jackson's championship experience and the win-or-die nature of Lakers fans as a reason the Hall-of-Famer was the right man for the job.
That's the reason why Mike is out, because the Lakers are about winning championships. They're not about waiting. Some people have complained, and said different things - no, he didn't get a fair shake. The Lakers don't give people fair shakes. It's not about fair shakes. It's about whether you can produce or not. Other organizations, they have time and patience because they're not about winning the championships. The Lakers are about winning championships. They've had championships already, when you think about 16 of them. This team was put together and they want to win this year. That's why Dr. Buss and (Lakers vice president) Jim (Buss) and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) made the call.
While Johnson may be right about why Brown wasn't a good fit, his remarks about the Lakers franchise itself are very telling. Here is a team that has won so much, it has only missed the playoffs a total of five times since being established in 1948, when they were the Minneapolis Lakers. Even in their first year of existence, they managed to win it all.
Simply put, such an intense win-first mentality is everything that's wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers. Team management fired Brown after a 1-4 start, but there were still 77 games left to play. For all we know, the team could have turned things around within a week and finally adjusted to the Princeton offense.
However, Dr. Jerry Buss and his son Jim got impatient and put the pressure on GM Mitch Kupchak to cut Brown loose. Over the weekend, every indication was given that Jackson would be hired and that it was "his job to turn down."
Instead, team management opted to go with Mike D'Antoni, and now he has to deal with the disappointment of the fans, who will never view him in the same light as Jackson. Keep in mind, Jackson won five championships in Los Angeles and coached the Lakers two different times, from 1999-2004 and again from 2005-2011. Given how he was on the verge of coming back for a third stint and would have had a new-look team at his disposal, it's understandable why fans would be disappointed.
That being said, D'Antoni is already in a losing situation with the fans. Sure, they'll cheer if he succeeds, but he'll always be in the shadow of Phil Jackson even if he wins a championship in every year of his four-year deal. Nothing against the man, but he has yet to prove to be as innovative nor as game-changing a man as the Zen Master.
Thus, while Magic Johnson may have been right in his statements, his brashness exposed everything that's wrong with one of the NBA's most storied franchises. He is a product of that win-or-bust system and took home five rings of his own playing for the Lakers, so it's hard for him to have an unbiased view of the team's decision-making process. He himself did nothing but win for most of his basketball playing days, winning championships both with the Lakers and Michigan State University, so of course he'd be attracted towards anyone or anything with championship experience.
Unfortunately, team management opted to go with Mike D'Antoni rather than Jackson. As a result, it's time for Johnson and the rest of Lakers nation to get used to the decision, the sooner the better.