These Lakers Can’t Afford to Fire Mike D’Antoni & Hire Phil Jackson

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles LakersToday I had to look on Google to find information that I wasn’t sure of. I searched to see if any NBA team in league history had fired two coaches in the same season. That’s what it’s become in Los Angeles, folks. As fans drastically search for reasoning behind the Lakers’ struggles this season, they’ve found a new scapegoat to cast their blame upon.

Mike D’Antoni.

After running Mike Brown out of town just five games into the season, the fans have already made up their mind when it comes to D’Antoni.

He’s a bum. Ship him out. Bring in someone else.

Sorry, everybody, but it’s not going to happen. The Lakers are stuck with Mike D’Antoni (if stuck is the word you want to use) for at least the remainder of this season, and most likely next season as well. While there’s a chance the team makes another surprising mood if the team continues to struggle next season, it’s unlikely the team makes another coaching change even if things clearly aren’t happening on the court.

Why? It’s simple, really. Money. Lots and lots of money.

You see, here’s what most people fail to understand. When the team makes a coaching change the coach doesn’t simply go away. Mike Brown hasn’t faded into oblivion even though you don’t see him looking remarkably flabbergasted on the Lakers’ sideline. In fact, he’s sitting at the local Chick-Fil-A collecting $11 million from the Lakers. For not coaching. Now, even a team with a new $3.6 billion television deal, that’s a lot of money to be spending on a guy just to leave you alone.

So we’re $11 million in with just Mike Brown. Now how about the guy who still has a job.

Mike D’Antoni signed a three year, $12 million contract back on Nov. 12, 2012. So you’re looking at $4 million per season (my math is superb, I know), being wired from the Lakers to D’Antoni’s bank account. And remember, this is on top of the $11 million also being spent on Mike Brown’s spicy chicken sandwich deluxe. Now, thanks to my fantastic math skills once again, we’re looking at $23 million being spent on Brown and D’Antoni alone.

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Okay. So let’s assume the Lakers do fire D’Antoni. And, since we’re already skipping around in the hypothetical world, we’ll say they do it this season. They will still need a new head coach. While Bernie Bickerstaff may be the most successful head coach they’ve had this season, the team clearly made it known that he wasn’t a long term solution when they bypassed him for D’Antoni back in November. In fact, the only reasonable explanation for the team firing D’Antoni at this point in the season (which they did in our make-believe world), would be to bring in a big name. Maybe a guy you’ve heard of before. Maybe a guy who is engaged to the owner’s daughter and recently led the Lakers to five championships in 10 seasons.

Phil Jackson.

Take a moment to let the pretend celebration subside and you’ll begin to notice something terribly wrong with this situation. While to those not signing the paychecks this appears to be a great hire. The team finally got their man and they can see if he can be the one to douse the purple and gold dumpster fire raging through Los Angeles. Since this is indeed a fantasy situation, we don’t have real world dollars to use for his potential contract. So what we’re going to do is simply go back to his final year with the Lakers (2010-11) and assume the Lakers give him a similar deal to come back and coach again.

During his final season with Los Angeles Phil banked a modest $10.33 million. He was the highest paid coach in league history, and made more money than most of the team’s players. While most will argue that a coach with his resume deserves that type of cheddar, when you add it to what the team is currently paying their coaches you’re going to need a bigger boat. Or wallet. Or whatever.

If the Lakers brought back Jackson for approximately $10 million per season, that would increase the total amount of money being spent on coaches to $33 million. This is, of course, taking into considerationPhil Jackson D’Antoni’s entire contract, which the team will still have to cover even if they parted ways. So for the Lakers to fire D’Antoni and hire Phil Jackson, they would end up paying more this season for the head coaching position than they are for Kobe Bryant. And he’s the highest paid player in the NBA.

And remember, that’s still just a one year deal for Jackson. You would have to assume they would offer at least two or three years total in the contract, which would be upwards of $10 per season. So the total value of Jackson’s deal would likely be over $30 million, bringing the Lakers’ final cost for their head coaches to more than $50 million over the course of three seasons. To quote one of the faceless clowns during the bank heist scene at the beginning of The Dark Knight, “that’s a lot of money.”

It makes more sense now, right? Even if the team wanted to fire D’Antoni and cut their losses (which I’m fairly convinced they’re not willing to do yet, anyways), they would be spending so much money on coaches that it would have an even larger negative impact on the team in general. With the new, stricter CBA guidelines beginning to come into play next season, the math tells us the team simply can’t afford that. Even a team that is worth $1 billion, which Forbes just announced the Lakers are, understands the bad business of locking up $50 million into the head coach position.

Oh, and one more thing. Remember my little story at the beginning? About searching for a team that had ever fired two coaches in the same season? It’s never happened. Ever. So, as if the rest of the nonsense piling on top of the team isn’t enough, the team has history working against them as well.

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