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Mike D'Antoni


Mike D'Antoni
Mike D'Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers

Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gives instructions to his team before tipoff of the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles

Getty Images / Stephen Dunn
One of the most important innovators to hit offensive basketball in years, Mike D'Antoni now has one of the most prominent jobs in the game: head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Quick Facts

  • Name: Mike D'Antoni
  • Position: Head Coach
  • School: Marshall University
  • Birthdate: May 8, 1951
  • Home Town: Mullens, WV
  • Drafted: #20 overall, 1973 NBA Draft, by the Kansas City/Omaha Kings

Scouting Report

Strengths: D'Antoni is best-known as the innovator behind the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense that made Steve Nash into a league MVP, turned Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson into superstars and made the Phoenix Suns a title contender and one of the most entertaining teams in recent memory.

The basic principle of D'Antoni's offense is the idea that the best shots come in the first seven seconds of the 24-second clock - before the opposing defense is able to really set itself. But the fast pace isn't the only reason D'Antoni teams score so much.

The bread-and-butter play of a D'Antoni offense is the pick-and-roll, typically run by the point guard and center. In the heyday of "SSOL," Nash and Stoudemire ran it to perfection. D'Antoni likes to have frontcourt players with the ability to step out and hit a three-point shot, which helps draw opposing defenders away from the basket and creates additional space in the paint for the offense to operate.

D'Antoni is also adept at using players at non-standard positions to create mismatches. On most teams, Stoudemire would have been a power forward and Marion a small forward. But D'Antoni's Suns used that duo as center and PF, respectively, using their mobility and athleticism to exploit bigger, slower defenders.

Some have written off D'Antoni's success as a product of Steve Nash, but the offense has been a success for teams of widely different skill levels... from some fairly awful Knick teams with Chris Duhon at the point to USA Basketball's 2008 and 2012 Olympic squads.

Weaknesses: D'Antoni's teams to this point have been fairly one-dimensional: unstoppable on offense, but treating defense as an afterthought. His lack of focus on the defensive end ultimately led to his departures from both Phoenix and New York. Steve Kerr - then general manager of the Suns - wanted D'Antoni to hire an assistant coach to handle the defense, but D'Antoni balked, and eventually left for the job in New York. The Knicks also insisted on a defensive assistant; the man they hired for that role - Mike Woodson - ultimately took over the job.

Defense may not be as big a problem in Los Angeles; Dwight Howard's presence in the middle covers up for a multitude of sins.

Playing Career

D'Antoni was drafted in by the Kings in the second round of the 1973 draft. He played three seasons for the Kings, then two seasons in the ABA before launching a lucrative and successful career playing in Italy, mostly for Olimpia Milano. He would lead Milano to five Italian league titles and two European championships, and retired as the team's leading scorer.

He also made a very favorable impression on a young Kobe Bryant, whose father Joe was playing in the Italian league at the time.

Coaching Career

D'Antoni started his coaching career with Milano in 1990, then moved to Italian power Benetton Treviso for a successful run. In 1997 he returned to the NBA, becoming the director of player personnel for the Denver Nuggets. He took over the coaching job in Denver for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, but was let go after his team finished the year with an unimpressive 14-36 record.

He spent the next two seasons as a scout for the Spurs and an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers before landing an assistant coaching job in Phoenix in 2002. He was promoted to head coach early in the 2003-04 season.

But the 2004-05 season was when he really began to make his mark. Thanks in part to the acquisition of Nash, D'Antoni led the Suns to a remarkable 62-win season - a 20-game improvement over the previous year - and was named NBA Coach of the Year. His Suns won 54 or more games in each of his four full seasons as head coach and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006.

He parted ways with the Suns after the 2007-08 season to take over the rebuilding New York Knicks. D'Antoni's arrival was intended to help restore a franchise that had become a league laughingstock during Isiah Thomas' run as general manager, and to assist in recruiting free agents.

Playing with rosters composed as a way to clear salary for a run at LeBron James, D'Antoni's Knicks struggled through his first two seasons in New York. But things started to turn around in 2010.

The Knicks were unable to land the biggest fish in the 2010 free agent class, but they did sign Amar'e Stoudemire. Along with Raymond Felton and 2008 first-round pick Danilo Gallinari, Stoudemire helped key a major turnaround for the team and was generating serious MVP buzz in December 2010 and January 2011.

The acquisition of Carmelo Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline proved to be a bit of a speed bump for the team, as Anthony and Stoudemire struggled to co-exist in the offense. The Knicks did finish with a 42-40 record - their first above .500 in a decade - and reached the playoffs, but were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.

D'Antoni's struggles to co-exist with Anthony carried over into the next season, coming to a head after the all-star break. The coach resigned on March 14 and was replaced by assistant Mike Woodson.

When the Los Angeles Lakers started the 2012-13 season with a dismal 1-4 record, coach Mike Brown was fired and D'Antoni hired as his replacement. The move was somewhat controversial, as many expected the Lakers to bring Phil Jackson - a coach with eleven NBA titles and five with the Lakers - back for a third stint in Los Angeles.

D'Antoni coached his first game with the Lakers on November 20, 2012 - a 95-90 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Dream Team

D'Antoni has served as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski on the staff of USA Basketball's senior men's team since 2006. He was initially hired for his experience with the international game, but essentially became the "offensive coordinator" of the teams that won Olympic championships in 2008 and 2012 and the FIBA World Championship in 2010.
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