— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 1, 2014
Mike D’Antoni had one year left on his contract and tried to get some affirmation on his future with the Lakers last week by asking the team to exercise its option for the 2015-16 season on his contract. It’s been reported when the Lakers said they were unwilling to do that, the team and his representatives began working out a solution that was amenable to everyone. It is believed that D’Antoni did not leave the full $4 million that was guaranteed to him next season on the table.
D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie said “We’ve hit an insurmountable impasse, and Mike will no longer be the Laker coach.”
D’Antoni’s two seasons as Lakers coach was a time he might want to forget. Superstar Kobe Bryant endured serious injuries in back-to-back seasons and there was a struggle with the chemistry of the team as a whole.
In D’Antoni’s first year, he took the Lakers to the 2013 playoffs, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round without Bryant. Center Dwight Howard, once viewed as the heir to Bryant’s throne as the Lakers premier player, left in free agency last offseason to the Houston Rockets for less money.
This season, the team with three future Hall of Famers (Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash) on its roster stumbled to the worst record (27-55) for the franchise since moving to Los Angeles. Bryant replacement Jodie Meeks, — a player on a $1.55 million salary, was the team’s leading scorer with 1,209 points.
“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”
Because of the struggles, D’Antoni was subject to much criticism from Lakers fans, particularly after it became clear the Lakers would miss the playoffs this season for the third time in 38 years. Leading the charge was Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
Happy days are here again! Mike D’Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 1, 2014
The Lakers said a search for a replacement will begin shortly, but right now their immediate focus is on the NBA draft, where they will have at least a top-9 pick and free agency, where they have enough salary cap flexibility to sign a maximum-contract level free agent. The Lakers have just three players under contract for next season, including Steve Nash and Bryant. The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history will make more than $48 million over the next two years.
D’Antoni has a 455-426 record in 12 seasons as a head coach with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Lakers. But he has only won five playoff series, all with the Suns in a three-year stretch from 2005 to 2007.
“Every coach should be under scrutiny,” D’Antoni said two weeks ago. “Some coaches get fired even after the best years they’ve ever had. … There’s always things we could have done better, and it’s easier with hindsight. Things don’t always go smoothly. For the most part, our guys were very competitive. For us, there are some silver linings in there, but in hindsight, it’s disappointing for everybody.”