Mike D’Antoni was basically doomed from the start after taking over for Mike Brown as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2012. Brown was fired after a 1-4 start to the 2012-13 NBA season, and it appeared to be only a matter of time before Phil Jackson would return for a third stint.
Lakers fans were ecstatic about the seemingly imminent return of Jackson would be at the helm of a team with without a lot of star power. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, Mike D’Antoni was hired to be Brown’s successor, and the franchise hasn’t been the same since. The team went on to suffer injury after injury, and D’Antoni’s system never took off in Los Angeles leading to his departure in 2014.
Three years after leaving the Lakers, D’Antoni is a success in the NBA once again as head coach of the Houston Rockets. D’Antoni recently reflected on his short time with the Lakers and explained why his system never worked in Los Angeles, via ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
“I thought that Phoenix maxed out in what they were doing. We tried it in New York, and it was going good for a while, and then a couple things happened and got us off the rails. Then Los Angeles, we just didn’t have a chance. There were just injuries, and people were pretty stubborn in their roles, and it’s like, ‘Sorry guys, this is not me. It’s not going to work right here.’ So, things happen, and you coach, you learn, you go on and you hope for a better situation.”
It’d be interesting to know who D’Antoni is referring to regarding “stubborn” players. It could be Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or all of them. Steve Nash was obviously not a problem with all of his success in the league basically attributed to flourishing in D’Antoni’s system in Phoneix, but it’s not like he was able to get on the floor much having suffered the leg injury that turned into a nerve issue and would ultimately end his career.
As for D’Antoni’s current situation in Houston, the 65-year-old is arguably the frontrunner for NBA Coach of the Year. D’Antoni has MVP candidate James Harden and the Rockets firing on all cylinders with the team having bought into his system and completely turned the corner this season as a result.
Houston is currently battling Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA playoffs and seems destined to advance. The Rockets could be the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors and their attempt to reach the NBA Finals for a third straight year.