If the Lakers’ intention all along was to stick it to Phil Jackson, then they got their wish.
The team appeared to be courting Jackson exclusively over the weekend after the abrupt firing of coach Mike Brown on Friday, with all signs pointing to the club trying to bring back the coach who had won five championship in Los Angeles.
Jackson and Lakers management discussed the position, reportedly giving Jackson until Monday to make a choice. Jackson went to bed Sunday thinking the job was his to take or not — until suddenly, it wasn’t.
The Lakers called Jackson near midnight Sunday and told him they were hiring Mike D’Antoni as their new coach, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. And as much as the decision surprised Jackson, what’s sitting even worse with him is how it all went down.
“I wish it would have been a bit cleaner,” Jackson told the Los Angeles Times on Monday night. “It would have been much more circumspect and respectful of everybody that’s involved. It seemed slimy to be awoken with this kind of news. It’s just weird.”
Jackson also denied rumors that he had been picky in meetings with Lakers management. Reports said he was asking for special travel arrangements and control in personnel decisions.
The Lakers said in a statement Monday that they went with D’Antoni because he was “the right person at this time to lead the Lakers forward.”
But everyone else watching the situation has to be scratching their heads. When the Lakers cleaned house after Jackson left in 2011, it looked like they were turning over a new leaf so the next coach could start afresh. But the way the sudden courting then dismissal of Jackson went this time around, it certainly looks like the Lakers may have enjoyed being able to toy with the coach who has taken much of the credit for the team’s success in recent years, whether that was their intent or not.
Slimy is right.
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