On March 14th, with his team in the midst of a post-Linsanity dive and Carmelo Anthony in more-or-less open revolt, Mike D'Antoni resigned as head coach of the Knicks. Eight months later, he beat out Phil Jackson - the guy that has coached 11 NBA champions - to replace Mike Brown as head coach of the Lakers.
Did the Buss family make the right call? Hard to say... but D'Antoni has several things going for him.
- He'll be reunited with Steve Nash. That's a big deal... in their four years together in Phoenix, Nash won two MVP awards, D'Antoni was named NBA Coach of the Year, and the Suns reached the West Finals twice.
- Kobe Bryant is a D'Antoni fan - and has been since he was a kid, growing up in Italy (where his dad was playing professionally) and D'Antoni was the star point guard for Olimpia Milano.
- He also has experience with Bryant - and Dwight Howard - having worked with both as part of Mike Krzyzewski's USA Basketball coaching staff.
On the down side, D'Antoni teams have never been particularly strong defensively. Of course, none of those teams had Dwight Howard in the middle. (Last year's Knicks - with Tyson Chandler at center - were very good on D, but much of the credit for that, fairly or unfairly - has gone to assistant coach Mike Woodson, who took over when D'Antoni left the team.)
Will D'Antoni lead the Lakers to a championship? Hard to say. I still think Oklahoma City is the team to beat in the West, with the Spurs and Clippers neck-and-neck with the Lakers for second-best.