Mike D'Antoni resigned his position as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles first reported the resignation, with the Lakers later confirming his departure.
“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a team statement issued Wednesday night. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”
Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears reports that an "impasse" over whether the Lakers would exercise D'Antoni's contract option for the 2015-16 season precipitated the coach's exit.
D'Antoni, 62, ends his two-year tenure in Hollywood with a record of 67-87, a .435 winning percentage. He inherited a Lakers team that had been expected to compete for NBA championships following trades to import All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to pair with incumbent stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, but that had stumbled under head coach Mike Brown, who was fired after compiling a 1-4 record to begin the 2012-13 campaign.
Many Lakers fans (and reportedly some within the organization) wanted the franchise to bring back Phil Jackson, who had led the team to five NBA championships in 11 seasons on the L.A. bench before retiring following the 2010-11 season. Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss instead turned to D'Antoni — reportedly at the behest of his father, the late Dr. Jerry Buss — giving him a three-year, $12 million contract to once again team with Nash, who won two league Most Valuable Player Awards as the point guard at the controls of D'Antoni's spread pick-and-roll attack with the Phoenix Suns — to supercharge the Lakers offense and helm a return to the "Showtime" days of old.
The marriage didn't work, though, as a variety of issues — an early-season broken leg that rendered Nash absent for most of the season and ineffective at others, on- and off-court chemistry issues with multiple players (most notably Bryant and Howard), and myriad injuries to star players (most notably the torn Achilles tendon that ended Bryant's season) — plagued the Lakers throughout the season. A strong campaign-ending run pushed L.A. into the postseason in D'Antoni's first year at the helm, but an ailing, undermanned and overmatched Lakers squad was swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs.
From there, everything fell apart. Howard left in free agency to join the Houston Rockets. Bryant suffered through an injury-wrecked season that kept him off the court for all but six games. Nerve irritation stemming from the broken leg limited Nash to just 15 appearances. A Lakers squad consisting primarily of lottery tickets, reclamation projects and role players stumbled to a 27-55 mark, the worst finish since the franchise moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960.
This is the second straight job from which D'Antoni has resigned. He stepped down as head coach of the New York Knicks in March of 2012, in the midst of his fourth season with the club. He had come to the Knicks after leaving the Suns with two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract, reportedly due in part to a fractured relationship with then-Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr. D'Antoni's first job at the head of an NBA bench after a distinguished playing and coaching career in Italy came with the Denver Nuggets during the lockout-shortened 1999 season; he was fired after going 14-36 in the 50-game campaign
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