Lakers News: Phil Jackson's Reaction Proves Mike D'Antoni Hiring All About Ego

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson speaks with Kobe Bryant of the Lakers before the memorial service for Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on February 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Buss died at the age of 80 on Monday following an 18-month battle with cancer. Buss won 10 NBA championships as Lakers owner since purchasing the team in 1979.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

According to Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles, Phil Jackson recently revealed his sentiments about the Los Angeles Lakers' decision to hire Mike D'Antoni during the 2012-13 regular season. To put it simply, Jackson laughed at the idea that D'Antoni was the better fit.

This reaction confirms what we've known all along—this hiring was all about ego.

Jackson recently spoke on ESPN's Mike & Mike in the morning, where his quotes were recorded on the issue. The Zen Master kept his cool, but he held nothing back when speaking on the controversial issue that helped shape L.A.'s season.

A season that saw the Lakers make a first-round exit for the first time since 2007.

"I laughed," Jackson told ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show Wednesday. "It was humorous to me when [Lakers general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] said that we think that Mike [D'Antoni] is a better coach for this group of guys."

"In the process of thinking about how they could best use the team I think they thought first and foremost about Steve Nash and how Steve Nash was going to fit inside of an offensive system that I coach. ... I think that was a concern for them."

A rational concern, but not one that determines the coaching change.

Not only is Jackson a significantly more decorated coach than D'Antoni, but the comparison isn't even fair. One coach is one of the most decorated to ever live, while the other is a veteran that has nothing to show for his strong system.

This isn't knocking D'Antoni, as his system would work well with a young team, but instead an acknowledgement of the facts.


Passing Over Greatness

Phil Jackson is one, if not the most, decorated coaches in NBA history. He's fifth all time in regular-season wins, but ranks first in regular-season win percentage and in postseason wins accumulated.

Did we mention that Jackson has 11 NBA championship rings as a coach?

What may be most concerning about L.A. choosing D'Antoni over Jackson is the fact that Jackson won five of those titles with the Lakers. This isn't ancient history, either, as the last time Jackson and the Lakers won a title was 2010.

By comparison, D'Antoni hasn't won a playoff game since 2008.

D'Antoni may be a quality coach, but Jackson is a legend that wasn't even given the opportunity to accept the previously extended offer. With no other team firing their coach five games into the season, the market for D'Antoni certainly wasn't an influencing factor.

It all came down to a matter of egos.


Ego or Ignorance?

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2012-13 NBA regular season with an elite backcourt and an equally as dominant frontcourt. Steve Nash, now 39, was set to team with Kobe Bryant, 34, while Pau Gasol, 32, paired with L.A.'s most athletic player—their center, Dwight Howard.

Somewhere in between Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers decided they were going to adopt a run-and-gun system—you know, with all those 30-plus-year-olds.

"I think it didn't happen because there was some concern, How are we going to move in the right direction for this ballclub?" Jackson said. "When Mitch gave me the call close to midnight on Sunday night right before I was going to give them an answer Monday morning and said, 'We've made a choice. We're going to hire Mike D'Antoni. We think he's the best coach for this group of guys,' My answer was, 'For Steve Nash, yes, I agree, but for Dwight Howard, I'm not so sure.'

"They wanted to move to a quicker, 3-point-oriented game, which is kind of the rage right now in the NBA," Jackson said. "I felt like with Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard we could emulate a lot of what we did with Andrew Bynum and Pau and pound the ball inside and have an interior game that was strong. But it was their choice, and that's all right with me.

To offer a quick summary, Jackson's system won five rings in Los Angeles and D'Antoni's led to a first-round exit.

There's no reason to knock the Lakers for wanting to move at a faster pace, as the "Showtime era" was equally as successful as Jackson's time with the team. With that being said, someone failed to understand the concept of a system matching the personnel.

That is the person responsible for this year's failure.

One of the most well-documented non-basketball facts about the NBA is that Phil Jackson is engaged to Jeanie Buss. For those unfamiliar, even prior to the passing of the legendary Jerry Buss, Jeanie's brother, Jim, was granted the keys to the organization, per say.

Unfortunately, that family fiasco is the key to all of this.

According to Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register, Jim and Jeanie were not on talking terms after the Lakers passed over Jackson as their head coach. Not only is this tragic, but it fuels a fire that no columnist wants to dive into.

The elements of family, anger and protection.

I won't dare speak on what is unknown, but it's become clear that there is more to this story than D'Antoni being the better fit. After all, D'Antoni didn't fit the Lakers coming into the season and proved to be the wrong coach for them during the season.

The question is simple—will L.A. tailor their personnel to D'Antoni's system and give him a legitimate chance? Or will they continue to possess the personnel that Jackson could win with, but give them the wrong leader?

Only time will tell, but we now know that Jackson has no problem sitting back and watching it all crumble.