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”Besides I was under the influence of drugs...“ -  Mike D'Antoni's hilarious explanation for taking the Lakers gig

The head coaching position for the Los Angeles Lakers ”is not coveted, it’s not prestigious, and it’s generally a source of humiliation.” So why do great coaches keep taking it?
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni, shooting guard Kobe Bryant, small forward Metta World Peace and center Dwight Howard

Mike D'Antoni, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard

The Lakers reached new lows when they had Woj tweet Frank Vogel was getting fired moments after the last game of the season ended. This seems to be backfiring as reports are coming out a lot of their targets - Quin Snyder, Nick Nurse - noticed how poorly a championship coach was treated in LA. We see the stars and the glamour, but for people working in the NBA, the Lakers were never considered a good employer.

Lakers arrogance

Mike D’Antoni revolutionized basketball with the Suns and had a horrible experience in New York and Los Angeles. But D’Antoni didn’t fail there because of the pressure of coaching in the two biggest, most demanding markets in the NBA. It was an inside job.

As Kevin Arnovitz explained in the latest episode of the Lowe Post, the fact Vogel had to ask for authorization from the front office to bench Westbrook in the 4th quarter tells you how respected and empowered Lakers coaches are. “This is an organization where an NBA championship head coach needs a permission slip to make a 4th quarter substitution in January.

“You start to understand why things are dysfunctional there. Why Monty Williams said, “Thank you, but no thank you, I'll go to Phoenix.” Why Ty Lue said, ”Thank you, but no thank you, I'll go down the street [to the Clippers].” Until the Lakers convey to their head coach anything other than ”Aren't you lucky to be coaching our team??” which is their posture towards any hire - which hasn't been the case for a very long time. No one's life has been improved in years by coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Kevin Arnovits, The Lowe Podcast

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Arnovitz finished his point by saying the Lakers may be a prestigious name, but the head coaching position for the Lakers ”is not coveted, it’s not prestigious, and it’s generally a source of humiliation.” So why do good coaches keep punishing themselves? In the case of Mike D’Antoni, the answer was Steve Nash and, well, drugs. 

Hopium

Everyone takes the New York job with an” I know my odds aren’t great, but if I somehow do lead the Knicks to a tile, it’s the best thing a coach could ever experience” attitude. High risk, high reward. But it’s different with the Lakers. They are used to titles, so if you win it’s a pat on the back for the coach, but if you lose - well, ask Frank Vogel. 

Understanding all that, Mike D’Antoni still took the job and showed up to his introductory press conference on crutches because he was fresh out of knee surgery. Why?

The only reason I took the job, besides that I just had a knee replaced and I was under the influence of drugs. For anyone to make it work, I thought Steve [Nash] could and that was Steve from Phoenix days. Because he got hurt and never could quite come back, never got a chance to make it work.

Mike D'Antoni, The Old Man and The Three

D’Antoni obviously would never take the job if his favorite player wasn’t there to play point. He felt the Lakers had a real shot if Nash were 100%, but that, unfortunately, didn’t happen. 

And that’s how the Lakers get good coaches to sign up for a job that’s “generally a source of humiliation.” If there’s one thing coaches will value over anything else, it’s talent, and for most of their history, the Lakers always had great players on the roster. 

The dirty secret is, in the past decade, more great players refused a free-agent meeting with the Lakers than have accepted it. If that part of their allure goes away, the Lakers will be in real trouble. Then they’ll just have to call guys fresh out of surgery, under the influence of drugs. 

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