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LA Lakers Hire Mike D’Antoni, Not Phil Jackson

Mike D'Antoni
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It was a weekend filled with its fair share of upsets on the football field: Texas A&M defeating Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Bengals and Saints won games as home underdogs against the Giants and Falcons, and the Texans won a rainy and sloppy game in Chicago. But perhaps the biggest upset of the sports weekend happened off the field, in the offices of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, as Mike D’Antoni has been named the new head coach of the Lakers instead of legendary coach Phil Jackson.

In a stunning move, D’Antoni gets a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a club option for a fourth year. The announcement to hire the former Suns and Knicks coach was made hours after the Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 103-90, which was their second consecutive win under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

The Lakers had apparently been in negotiations with “The Zen Master” himself throughout the weekend, and Jackson was actually expecting to accept the job at some point Monday, as long as negotiations continued to go well between the organization and his agent. However, something went terribly awry along the way and the Lakers decided to go in another direction. Some believe that Jackson’s request to be more involved in “basketball decisions” within the organization did not sit well with team executive VP Jim Buss, son of owner Dr. Jerry Buss.

The immediate problem with this hire by the Lakers is that D’Antoni had knee surgery at the beginning of the month and has not been cleared to travel yet, so the new head coach will not be able to join his team until late this week, at the very earliest. One player who may be delighted with this decision is new point guard Steve Nash, who won two MVP Awards during his five years in Phoenix with D’Antoni. The Lakers are back in action Tuesday night against the 6-1 San Antonio Spurs, before a match-up this Friday night against one of D’Antoni’s former teams, the Phoenix Suns.

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