Mike D’Antoni’s two seasons as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers are not a time that anyone is going to remember fondly. He was given the job just a few games into the 2012-2013 NBA season, replacing Mike Brown and accepting the task of turning the superstar quartet of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash into a contender.
Of course, we all know how things turned out. Bryant tore his Achilles, Nash couldn’t stay healthy, and Howard sulked before leaving in free agency the next summer. D’Antoni was shown the door after just two seasons in Los Angeles, but was given another shot at the helm of the Houston Rockets this season, and given their meteoric ascension, it appears that he will be a strong contender for Coach of the Year.
Nash, who won two MVP awards under D’Antoni during their “Seven Seconds or Less” days with the Phoenix Suns, told A.J. Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today that D’Antoni’s reputation was tarnished a bit due to his time in Los Angeles:
“I think he’s gotten such a bad rap for New York and L.A,” Nash told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview on Friday. “I don’t know that he really had a chance in either one of those stops. It kind of diminished a little bit of what an impact he’s had on the game and how great it is to watch him put his pieces together, play his system and style. And what a beautiful way it is to play the game and how impactful it’s been on this team and this league.”
Of course, Nash isn’t wrong. D’Antoni did help revolutionize the way that the game is played with the Suns, and we are seeing teams across the league incorporate elements of that style today. His days with the Lakers (and the New York Knicks before that) were just so underwhelming that it was hard to get past.
With the Lakers, D’Antoni never really had the right types of players to fit his system. Gasol wasn’t the floor-spacing four that he needed and Howard was all but allergic to setting a good screen, which is crucial in D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll heavy offense.
Now, with a Houston team that has essentially been built specifically to run his style of basketball, D’Antoni is once again proving himself to be a quality coach, and one who could very well end up being the Coach of the Year this season.