They fired a coach last week and have now made their decision on a new one. Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni has coaching experience, most recently with the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks. He has never won a title, but he is a former Coach of the Year. As he embarks on taking over in Los Angeles, just how much pressure is on him?
A lot. Luckily for D’Antoni, he has worked in a highly stressful environment in New York City. If you can handle New York media, you can pretty much work anywhere. The media constantly put a wedge between D’Antoni and superstar Carmelo Anthony. This is what SUPPOSEDLY led to his firing, but in case anyone forgot, there is an even bigger star in Los Angeles. So, if D’Antoni does not lead this team to a championship, will he be considered a failure?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The NBA has created an atmosphere that if you do not win right away, there is something wrong. Don’t believe me? How many people said that a Miami Heat led by Lebron James failed because they did not win the title. They made it to the finals, but did not bring home the title. It took an entire year for Lebron to get some of the critics off his back when he got to hoist the trophy up and people still doubt his talent.
D’Antoni is a great coach and no one will take that from him, but if he does not take his team all the way he is a failure. Everyone will say, well if they would have hired Phil, then they would have gotten there. One problem. The Lakers have some serious competition in the West, namely the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even if they get into the finals, they will still have to face the Heat who look to be the favorite to win the Eastern Championship again.
My conclusion is that no matter what D’Antoni does, he will be criticized. If this team ever hits a skid, which it naturally will, people will be ready to say that if Phil was coaching they would be winning. It is easy to speculate, but slumps happen regardless of who is coaching. I do not predict the Lakers to win it all or even win the Western Conference. I am still picking a rematch of last year’s matchup.