As is well known, the Los Angeles Lakers have not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season. That season didn’t start out well as the team fired head coach Mike Brown only five games into the season. After flirting with former coach Phil Jackson, the team ultimately hired Mike D’Antoni to take over.
The decision to take D’Antoni over Jackson is one that has been criticized ever since, as D’Antoni never quite gelled with the team.
Former general manager Mitch Kupchak recently made an appearance on The Woj Podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and spoke about why he and Jim Buss decided to go with D’Antoni over the more popular Jackson:
“But yes, Phil did not want to coach. Jim and I met with him in his home and it was a struggle to get him to be enthusiastic about coaching. He knew that our team had a chance to be good that year and he knew that we were struggling as an organization […] I felt that if he coached, it’s only because he felt that pressure to do that […] Maybe Jeanie said this is something that you should consider.”
Kupchak added that they were also looking for more of a long-term option, which Jackson didn’t provide:
“But Phil, in my mind, the coaching part was behind him already. And he indicated if he did come back and coach, it would probably be for only one year. So, Jim and I talked about it and rather than hire a coach for just one year and be in the same spot six months from now, we decided to move on to Mike D’Antoni.”
The decision to hire D’Antoni obviously didn’t work out for the Lakers, but Kupchak’s reasoning for the hire does make some sense. Particularly, if Jackson was only going to coach for one season, the Lakers wanting to get a long-term solution is understandable.
Now the Lakers have found that long-term coach they were looking for in Luke Walton, while D’Antoni took over the Houston Rockets last year, winning NBA Coach of the Year, so it worked out for both sides.