Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has a job to come back to next season.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak said before the team beat the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night that D’Antoni will be back as head coach of the Lakers next season and said he’s done a great job so far, adding that there have been no discussions otherwise, according to a Los Angeles Times report from Mike Bresnahan. The Lakers not only secured a playoff spot late Wednesday night, but the win over the Rockets gave them the seventh seed and a first-round matchup against the No. 2 San Antonio Spurs.
Kupchak lauded D’Antoni for remaining flexible throughout the season and listening to his players, and in a rare instance of certainty in an otherwise uncertain season, Kupchak said definitively that D’Antoni will be the Lakers coach next season:
“Yeah, he’s back. I think he’s done a great job. There’s been no discussions otherwise. He’s made adjustments. He’s been flexible. He’s evaluated how he coaches as the season’s progressed. He’s listened to the players. He’s very easy to work with and we think in particular since the meeting the day of the Memphis game, yeah.”
D’Antoni is 40-32 as coach of the Lakers this season, and has taken the team to a 28-12 record since calling that team meeting in Memphis in January after a 106-93 loss to the Grizzlies. He has two years and $8 million remaining on his contract with the Lakers, who also owe another $6 million to Mike Brown after parting ways with him in November.
Kupchak said D’Antoni, 61, needs more time for a fair shot because of the injuries, lack of a training camp, and unfamiliarity with the team and its personnel after coaching the New York Knicks and only seeing the Lakers twice in a season.
“Much has been made of the injuries, and the coaching change [in November] and no training camp, which is certainly a part of it. [Y]ou’re in New York coaching and you see the Lakers once or twice a year, you don’t know the personnel. And the injury situation when he got here, Steve Nash had the broken leg. There’s just too much going on to really look at it any other way.”