Mike D’Antoni’s stint with the Los Angeles Lakers will come to an end prior to the start of next season.
The head coach of the Purple and Gold simply comes with too much baggage for Los Angeles to retain him. Indeed, since enjoying multiple successful seasons with the Phoenix Suns, D’Antoni’s track record has been wildly unimpressive.
Lost His Luster in New York
The New York Knicks faltered under his watch and became a team with title aspirations after he left town. The Knickbockers were bad with D’Antoni at the helm, and what’s more, the same can be said about his rapport with his stars.
Prior to resigning, D’Antoni clashed with Carmelo Anthony to the point that the former Denver Nugget contemplated leaving the team if D’Antoni remained in place. Marc Berman of the New York Post has the story:
However, Tuesday night, a source said Anthony and D’Antoni spoke in an attempt to reconcile their differences and made headway. On Monday night, Anthony only wanted to remain a Knick if he had assurances D’Antoni wouldn’t be back next season.
In addition, there seems to be a consensus that D’Antoni runs his star players into the ground. He overextends them during the regular season and idly sits by as their bodies break down.
His stint in New York only reinforced this reputation. Amar’e Stoudemire has not been the same since joining forces with him in the Big Apple. The former Suns big man played a career-high amount of minutes in his first season in NYC and then started missing a large chunk of games.
Since the D’Antoni tornado hit New York in 2010-11, Stoudemire has failed to appear in 50 games or more in every following season. The same issue has followed the former Phoenix coach to Los Angeles.
Exposed in Los Angeles
In his first season with the Lakers, D’Antoni played Kobe Bryant 43.5 minutes per game in the final 10 games of his season and watched in horror when the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer tore his Achilles.
The Lakers coach shed some light on his line of thinking to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger once news broke of Bryant’s tear: "If I felt we could [make the playoffs] and steal minutes, we would've," D'Antoni said. "And I think you always second-guess that. We'd second-guess if we sat him out and didn't make the playoffs."
Bryant rehabbed his injury and returned this season only to suffer a knee fracture. The five-time champion will likely return to the lineup in early February, but it is quite possible that irreparable damage has been done.
Moreover, the Lakers coach set the franchise back because of his inability to incorporate Dwight Howard’s talents. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was not fond of the headman in his lone year in L.A., and consequently, he left the franchise once he became a free agent.
Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher has the details: "Talks with various people close to the situation make it clear there were two prerequisites for Dwight Howard to remain a Laker: fire Mike D'Antoni and amnesty, or at the very least muzzle, Kobe Bryant."
His relationship with Howard served to illustrate just how stubborn D’Antoni is. He adhered to his system and never really figured out how to incorporate his best players.
Not so coincidentally, D’Antoni alienated Pau Gasol by relegating him to the second unit. In related news, Gasol’s two seasons under his current coach have been the worst of his career from a statistical standpoint.
A Future Elsewhere
This is the man who is supposed to steer the franchise back to prominence with career-defining moments approaching the organization. D’Antoni has demonstrated he is not fit to lead the most glamorous franchise in the sport, and as a result, the Lakers must cut ties with him.
Los Angeles has managed its player salaries in a manner that will allow the team to have approximately $26 million in cap space this summer if it renounces all of its free agents.
L.A. is hoping to secure the services of an elite player to place alongside Bryant and compete for championships.
Mind you, given D’Antoni’s struggles with star players, it’s difficult to envision him being a selling point when free agents are deciding whether or not to join the Lakers.
Role players will likely flock to play for D’Antoni because they tend to flourish in his system, but his failures with superstars highlight the fact that he cannot connect with top-flight athletes and get them to play at a high level.
This actually partly explains the struggles his teams have faced after his departure from Phoenix. D’Antoni has enjoyed exactly two winning seasons since the conclusion of the 2007-08 campaign. More importantly, he has not won a single playoff game during this stretch.
His lack of recent success and inability to reach superstars make D’Antoni the wrong candidate to coach the Lakers. Hence, he is probably coaching his last season with the Lakers.