- By Lorenzo Tanos
When a team is winning, the coach usually doesn't get much credit, if at all. But when a team is losing, fans call for the coach's head. That's normally not the right way to go about things when a once-mighty team finds itself in the unfamiliar position of losing. But with the Los Angeles Lakers, it stands to reason that the best way they can kick off the rebuilding process is by getting rid of the coach.
Back when Mike D'Antoni was coaching the Phoenix Suns, he had a lot of tools at his disposal. This was during the peak of Steve Nash's career, after all, and Amar'eStoudemire was still relatively healthy and productive for the most part. As such, it was no surprise that the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns were an exciting, high-scoring team that did very well in the regular season. But it would be in the postseason where the Suns would inevitably find themselves unable to get as far as their regular season record suggested; D'Antoni's lack of emphasis on defense turned out to be their own undoing in the Playoffs.
Fast forward to the present, and the Lakers are anywhere but close to the Playoffs. And D'Antoni hasn't tweaked his coaching style any to reflect a modicum of emphasis on the defensive end. For him, the goal of the game is still to outscore the opponent, rather than making sure the opponent scores less. Even with NBA scores up considerably from their lowest point in the late'90s, defensive-oriented coaches like Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel, and Dave Joerger (and Lionel Hollins prior to him) get the most out of their lineups, and the former two are considered the best in their field. D'Antoni, on the other hand, remains a run-and-gun dinosaur in a coaching scene where defensive strategists are usually the most respected.
Of course, we can justify the Lakers' poor record this 2013-14 season by saying Kobe Bryant had seen action in only six games, that Steve Nash also had his share of injury problems and is already in his 40s and playing like it, that the lineup has been paper-thin to the point that former Warriors benchwarmer Kent Bazemore and late second-round pick Ryan Kelly have been seeing quality minutes. But a coach with a more structured offense and an emphasis on shutting the other team down would have arguably been able to get more out of the Lakers – at least Mike Brown, for all his failures with the team, knew how to coach defense. Sure, the Lakers still wouldn't make the postseason with their present lineup, but at least the effort would be there.
This is not to say that Mike D'Antoni was never a good coach, because let's face it – his system, while anachronistic, worked with the Suns in the regular season, and he had the right players at the right time to make things work. If he had coached in the NBA during the free-wheeling ‘70s and ‘80s, he would have fit right in. But the times have passed him by, he hasn't proven in two seasons that he's the right type of coach to lead the Lakers, and this may be one time where firing the coach is actually the best way to start off the rebuilding process for the once-dominating Lakers.
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