The L.A. Lakers have fired a coach and hired a coach, and we're barely a few weeks into the 2012-13 season. They chose Mike D'Antoni because the management thinks the offense he runs is better suited to the new-look Lakers, and because he has a history of success with one of L.A.'s newest superstars. That's all fine.
But in the process of making the decision to hire D'Antoni, they have alienated the greatest coach in the history of their franchise, not to mention one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA. And that never should have happened.
Nobody is really faulting L.A. for hiring D'Antoni. That's not the problem. The problem is the way Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss handled that hiring, because if Phil Jackson's side of the story is accurate then Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, is right: There really is a problem with the way the Lakers are being run, as he told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
After the Lakers fired Mike Brown last week, rumors quickly circulated that they were considering two possible replacements: Mike D'Antoni, Steve Nash's former coach with the Phoenix Suns, and Jackson.
By all indications, the popular pick was Jackson. The fans wanted him back, he has a rich history of success with the Lakers and, to the surprise of some, he even appeared to want the job. According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, Jackson's interested was piqued by the "excitement and talent of the team, and the attraction."
If they had hired Jackson, the Lakers would have had all the makings of a Hollywood fairytale this season: superstar-laden team struggles out of the gate, hires Zen Master and overcomes all adversity en route to an NBA title.
But that's not quite how things went. According to Jackson, via ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne and Dave McMenamin, he met with Kupchak and Buss on Saturday, and his perception was that he had until Monday to make a decision about whether or not he wanted the job.
That is, until Kupchak called Jackson at midnight on Sunday and woke him up with the news that he had chosen D'Antoni instead.
In the aftermath, there have been rumors, according to ESPNLA.com, that Jackson demanded too much—too much money, too much say in "personnel decisions," permission to "skip some road games"—all of which Musburger deemed false information.
Even Kurt Rambis told ESPNLA.com that Jackson said those topics never even came up. The two sides had barely even begun negotiations because, by Jackson's perception, they were waiting until Monday to do so. They were waiting to find out whether Jackson was all in.
L.A. had every right to hire the person it perceived to be the best fit for the job, whether or not those rumors are true and Jackson really did make some unattractive demands. However, calling someone in the middle of the night to tell them they didn't get the job, especially someone with Jackson's pedigree and history with the organization, is ridiculous.
That is the part that isn't really acceptable. No organization can give a leading job candidate the indication that the position is theirs then give it to someone else and relay the news in the middle of the night prior to the agreed-upon deadline, but you really can't do that when you're the Lakers and the job you're offering up is one of the most high profile in the world of sports.
It's just a shame. Not that Jackson didn't get the job, but that this is the way the Lakers are treating him. It's a shame that the relationship between the coach and the organization for which he did so much is now strained and awkward.
Whether or not the Lakers truly did find the right man for the job, they didn't go about finding him in the right way.
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