Predicting What Mike D'Antoni's Coaching Staff Should Look Like in 2013-14
Not yet, anyway. As much as folks in the City of Angels might prefer to see Phil Jackson back in his high chair for a third go-round for the Purple and Gold, the front office has already decided to give D'Antoni a shot to show what he can do with a full offseason and training camp under his belt.
And (as much as it hurts to say this) rightfully so.
Rip on D'Antoni all you want—for taking so long to realize that Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol can play together, failing to rein in Kobe Bryant, not being the Zen Master, etc.—but "Pringles" did plenty to earn his keep in LA.
He led the Lakers to a 28-12 record over their final 40 games and the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs, despite a ridiculous rash of injuries and without the benefit of a preseason to implement his system and work out a consistent playing rotation.
Simply put, the guy adapted on the fly and may well have had a playoff win or two to show for his efforts if not for the fact that the Lakers had to devote so many of their backcourt resources to their third-string guards during their first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Oh, and the Lakers owe him approximately $9 million over the next three years, on top of whatever portion of Mike Brown's old deal goes unpaid by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the massive luxury tax bill that's likely to land on LA for 2013-14...so there's that.
Now that all the pipe dream business is out of the way and D'Antoni's job is secure (at least through the first bit of 2013-14), there's the not-so-small detail of finalizing his coaching staff.
According to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, D'Antoni has already parted ways with Bernie Bickerstaff and Chuck Person. Bickerstaff, who was Mike Brown's mentor once upon a time, led the Lakers to a 4-1 record after taking over for Brown five games into the 2012-13 season.
Person was the last vestige of the Phil Jackson era and had focused most of his efforts on orchestrating the Lakers defense before D'Antoni moved him onto working with the players (namely, Dwight Howard) on their shooting mechanics.
Moreover, Eddie Jordan, whom Brown brought on prior to the 2012-13 campaign as counsel to the Princeton offense, has since left L.A. to assume the head-coaching duties at Rutgers, his alma mater, with coaching assistant Kyle Triggs in tow.
That means that D'Antoni's wolfpack of coaches is down to four: Dan D'Antoni (his brother), Phil Handy (the Lakers' player development coach), Steve Clifford (Mike's lead assistant) and Darvin Ham (LA's "big man" coach). D'Antoni's staff could shrink even further if Clifford lands the top job with the Charlotte Bobcats, for which he's already interviewed (per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer).
Either way, D'Antoni figures to bring on at least one more assistant to complete his crew. He had five assistants on his staff during each of his last three years with the Phoenix Suns and throughout his three-plus-season run with the New York Knicks.
At this point, Alvin Gentry is the obvious choice to land that fifth gig. He was D'Antoni's top assistant in Phoenix and took over as the head coach of the Suns after Terry Porter—who took over after D'Antoni left for the Big Apple in 2008—was fired. The Suns parted ways with Gentry this past January after the team got off to an abysmal 13-28 start.
Gentry is also intimately familiar with the basketball landscape in LA. He spent the better part of three seasons as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers between 2000 and 2003, albeit without a playoff appearance therein.
He might not be available to sit on D'Antoni's bench, though. He, too, has thrown his hat into the ring for the Charlotte job and, as a well-known retread in the coaching community, figures to garner consideration for some of the other myriad openings around the NBA.
Should Gentry find gainful employment elsewhere, D'Antoni would still have a number of old acquaintances on his list whom he can call.
There's Marc Iavaroni, who served as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2007 to 2009 after sticking with D'Antoni through most of his tenure in Phoenix. There's Herb Williams, who's been on the bench at Madison Square Garden in 2003. And there's Phil Weber, who followed D'Antoni from Arizona to the Empire State.
Gentry, though, would appear to be the ideal choice to take up residence at Mike's side. He's well-respected around the league, particularly by Steve Nash, with whom he led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2010.
Of greater interest, though, are the fates of Steve Clifford and Darvin Ham.
Both share relatively close ties with Dwight Howard—Clifford from his days on Stan Van Gundy's staff with the Orlando Magic, and Ham from his close positional work with Howard during the 2012-13 campaign. Dwight's decision in free agency won't likely come down to who's on hand to receive D'Antoni's directives, though keeping Clifford and Ham around could help somewhat in that endeavor.
Similarly, the Lakers' fortunes for next season and beyond figure to rest more firmly on the fate of the team's roster of players than that of its coaches.
Between the health and age of Kobe and Nash, the free-agent prospects of Dwight, the trade value of Pau and what's to become of LA's uneven bench, general manager Mitch Kupchak has plenty of work ahead to chart a corrective course for this wayward franchise.
A course along which it will be Mike D'Antoni's charge to guide the Lakers going forward. Hiring the right helpers may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but D'Antoni will need all the assistance he can muster as he attempts to get the Purple and Gold back on track.
And silence those who would chant for Phil, for good measure.
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