D'Antoni's Departure Won't Fix Lakers
Rather than restoring the Los Angeles Lakers to their Showtime style of the 1980s, Mike D'Antoni was head coach during the bodily betrayal of both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, while also severely alienating Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
From his first day on the job, D'Antoni was destined to disappoint since he wasn't Phil Jackson.
While replacing Mike Brown, D'Antoni had a quartet of Howard-Bryant-Gasol-Nash to work with that we expected be a perfect match for his system. But that Big Four saw only 22 games together, and most, if not all, of those games saw none of them simultaneously healthy. Even still, the team's chemistry and cohesion was upended almost immediately in 12-13 with an early injury to Nash.
That Lakers' roster was incredibly thin and could not withstand extended absences of any of those players, though they still managed to sneak into the playoffs.
Both the Lakers and D'Antoni have lost considerable luster since 2010.
The Lakers have just nine playoff wins since their 2010 title and their anticipated franchise player of the future walked from the franchise last July.
There aren't many proven, big name coaches readily available to replace D'Antoni. Stan Van Gundy hasn't shown an interest in coaching soon, and the likes of Lionel Hollins or George Karl could be too impatient to come to the Lakers in this transitional phase.
The Lakers' trouble isn't finding a coach, but committing to a direction. The worst thing a front can do in the NBA is mire between title contention and being a lottery team, simply being mediocre and without an identity. While the Lakers' endured a team-record 54 losses, there is the expectation they can immediately contend.
That expectation is enabled by front office decisions like investing $48 million on an extension for Bryant, who has been unable to stay healthy over the past year. It is difficult to see how they can be anything more than a fringe playoff team as their best case scenario given the coaching instability, rash spending and a lack of assets beyond this June's lottery pick, along with 2015 cap room that isn't guaranteed to net their next superstar centerpiece.
After wanting the team to exercise his contract option for the 2016 season, D'Antoni decided it was better to leave the franchise. His 67-87 record is the worst among coaches who oversaw at least 100 games for the Lakers, but that tells only so much, evidenced by 16 players starting at least five games this past season.
It is extremely difficult for a franchise to completely avoid periods of rebuilding, even one as storied as the Lakers. The issues facing Mitch Kupchak and the Buss Family didn't begin with D'Antoni, and they certainly won't end because he's gone.