With legend (and all-time-winningest coach) Phil Jackson apparently eager to take back the Lakers reins, the old-ish but star-studded squad hired Mike D’Antoni instead. Lots of basketball people were incredulous. Notably, Lakers great Magic Johnson doesn’t think the ringless D’Antoni can conjure quite the prestidigitation it’ll take to get the purple-and-gold back on top. (Johnson: “I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers. Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there…”)
Here’s something to consider: management apparently failed to consult his fierceness, Kobe Bryant, before hiring the last coach, Mike Brown, curb-kicked last week after a dismal start. You can bet they asked Kobe for his opinion this time around. Remember, Kobe hasn’t just studied his Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson, he’s read his Machiavelli too—just ask Shaq. (Probably in the original Italian too, a language–come to think of it– in which Kobe and D’Antoni share a fluency.) The aforementioned all-universe Jordan remains–until LeBron James wins five more championships–the only guy clearly above (The Prince) Bryant on the all-time-great totem pole. Michael Jordan, as it happens, won all six of his championships playing for Phil Jackson. Hmm, wait, Kobe Bryant won all five of his championships playing for Phil Jackson. Whatever could the uber-competitive Kobe Bryant do that the uber-competitive Michael Jordan never could? That’s right: win a title without Phil Jackson. Ciao, Mike D’Antoni.