While it's obvious Phil Jackson would have been a better choice than Mike D'Antoni to supplant Mike Brown in Los Angeles, some believe former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw was a better option than D'Antoni, as well.
Supporters of Shaw point to the fact that he worked under Jackson and he knows the triangle offense, which may be better suited for this Lakers team than a run-and-gun approach.
But this wasn't about Jim Buss looking for a big name, as some suggested. It wasn't another example of the Lakers organization being clueless, as many have suggested in recent years.
In fact, hiring D'Antoni was really the Lakers' best (and only) option.
Let me explain.
This is not only a team overflowing with superstars, two of them (Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard) have massive egos—egos big enough to single-handedly rule an organization. While Shaw is certainly an excellent candidate based on his work in the past, the fact of the matter is he has never been a head coach. While Bryant, Howard and Steve Nash may respect him, his word isn't going to carry the same weight as D'Antoni's.
D'Antoni, of course, coached Nash for five seasons when he was with the Phoenix Suns. He has also worked with Bryant and Howard as a Team USA coach. Heck, Bryant has respected D'Antoni ever since he saw the former guard star for Olimpia Milano while he was growing up in Italy.
D'Antoni has developed a reputation as a "players' coach" throughout the years. Also, as Steve Kerr noted via the Los Angeles Times, the 61-year-old believes in practices that last a brief 45 minutes to an hour, just to get players loose. Kerr brought up a good point when he noted that Brown "may have been over-coaching the team a little bit."
That makes a lot of sense, considering Bryant and Howard are not players who feel they need to be coached at this point in their careers. They are superstars, and they know it.
In my opinion, Shaw was a better candidate than D'Antoni from a pure X's and O's standpoint. The triangle offense would work well with Howard on the post and the Lakers need to fix their defense.
But that doesn't mean he was a better candidate than D'Antoni. Chemistry is another thing this team needs, and that is much easier to obtain when you have a players' coach working with players like Bryant and Howard. D'Antoni has already developed a rapport with Bryant, Howard and Nash, making it unlikely the Big Three of the Lakers will have a hard time transitioning to their new coach.
You'll remember that one of the reasons the Miami Heat lost in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks was because the Big Three had yet to completely gel, and that included with coach Erik Spoelstra.
One season later, they were hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy and everybody was all smiles.
Given the nature of Bryant and Howard in particular, the Lakers needed someone with extensive experience as a head coach who was respected by players throughout the league. While Jackson would have been the ultimate option (respect plus a proven system), D'Antoni is second-best given the Lakers' current situation.
Will D'Antoni lead the Lakers to the promised land?
Well, I'm still a bit skeptical given his system has never produced a championship.
But is it the best the Lakers could have done beyond Jackson?
Yes. Giving Bryant, Howard and Nash free reign to develop together is the best option for this team.
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