LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he and executive vice president Jeanie Buss are on good terms after the two met recently in the wake of comments Buss made in her book in which she criticized her brother for not rehiring Phil Jackson as coach last year.
"There is a process you have to go through, and I think everybody is good now," D'Antoni told Yahoo Sports. "We just have to make it work in the sense that we got to win. Everything is good. It really is."
D'Antoni was named the Lakers' coach on Nov. 12, 2012, five games into last season after Mike Brown was fired. Jackson was widely expected to be hired, but Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss – who hasn't often seen eye to eye with Jackson – made the call to hire D'Antoni, much to the chagrin of his sister Jeanie. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak delivered the news to Jackson during a late-night phone call.
In a recently released update to her book "Laker Girl," Jeanie Buss wrote that she felt "played" by her brother Jim after he contacted Jackson for the opening last year. She added that Jackson prepared 36 hours for a job that her brother wouldn't have hired him for in "a million years."
"How do you do that to your sister?" Jeanie Buss wrote. "How do you do that to Phil Jackson?"
Caught in the middle was D'Antoni. Jeanie Buss also wrote in the book that Jackson was told by general manager Mitch Kupchak that D'Antoni was hired because he was a better fit and that an expected public relations hit would last only about a month. A Lakers spokesman said Sunday that Jeanie Buss isn't granting interviews at this time.
Lakers fans who backed Jackson voiced their displeasure toward D'Antoni's hiring during the team's struggles last season. D'Antoni was 40-32 during his first season with the Lakers. He lost Kobe Bryant to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury just as the team appeared to gain traction in mid-April. Dwight Howard's impending free agency and struggles in D'Antoni's system also became regular storylines.
"You're trying to plug holes," D'Antoni said. "Plug here, plug there. The ceiling was falling in. It was a little bit of a tough spot."
The February passing of Lakers owner Jerry Buss – Jeanie's and Jim's father – also might have contributed to D'Antoni and Jeanie not speaking much until recently.
"I don't think anything was personal, but it was tough for everybody," D'Antoni said. "There was a grieving process they had to go through. Our chemistry wasn't good on the team. There was a lot of stuff.
"But I never felt anything but good support from the family from the basketball side. Mitch, Jim, they've been great. That definitely is a strength of us."
D'Antoni added Kurt Rambis, a former assistant under Jackson, to his own staff this summer. Per suggestion from a mutual friend, D'Antoni's wife Laurel recently went to lunch with Rambis' wife Linda, who is best friends with Jeanie. What was supposed to be a simple lunch ended up lasting about six hours. Soon after, Jeanie Buss, Linda Rambis and Laurel D'Antoni all connected over lunch.
The three decided it would be good for Jeanie Buss and Mike D'Antoni to finally talk. Mike D'Antoni confirmed he had a great meeting with Jeanie Buss within the past 10 days. They also spoke during a Lakers' coaching staff party hosted by Mike's brother Dan D'Antoni, a Lakers assistant.
"Now everybody is on the same team and we're pulling in the same direction trying to get this done," Mike D'Antoni said. "It was inevitable. It had to happen the other way, but this is a good spot we are in, no doubt."
D'Antoni also said he and Jackson have communicated.
"We've talked," D'Antoni said. "There was a couple clinics and different things, and I've seen him around town a couple of times."
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