The Los Angeles Lakers, in a surprising move, announced Monday morning that they have signed former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni to replace Mike Brown as head coach.
D'Antoni's has a four-year contract, his agent, Warren LeGarie, confirmed late Sunday night, several hours after the Lakers beat Sacramento 103-90 for their second straight win under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
A league source said D'Antoni has a three-year deal worth $12 million and that the fourth year is a club option.
The deal was signed around 11:30 p.m. PT Sunday night, a source close to the situation told ESPN. Sources confirmed a Los Angeles Times report that D'Antoni quickly agreed to coach the Lakers after L.A.'s weekend of negotiations to bring back Phil Jackson broke down.
The Lakers said they plan to hold a news conference most likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. In a statement released by the team, Lakers spokesperson John Black said team owner Jerry Buss, executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak were "unanimous that D'Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time."
Sources told ESPN that Jackson's triangle offense was seen as a benefit to Bryant and Pau Gasol, but not as conducive to the rest of the players on the roster -- namely point guard Steve Nash and centre Dwight Howard. Another strike against the triangle was the fact that this Lakers team struggled mightily to pick up the similarly complicated Princeton-style offense being instituted by Brown.
A league source indicated late Sunday night that Jackson was "stunned" when the Lakers called to inform him they had chosen D'Antoni. He had been prepared to accept the job Monday if negotiations between his agent and the Lakers went well. Jackson's agent Todd Musberger had been scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Monday
Jackson and the Lakers had never spoken about a salary, the source said, "but he knew coaches don't make what he used to make anymore." Jackson, the source said, also never intended to miss any more road games than he had in his previous years with the Lakers.
"Phil would come back only to win and skipping games doesn't lead to winning," the source said.
D'Antoni, who had knee surgery at the beginning of November, hasn't yet been cleared to travel, according to sources, and "it'll be a couple of days before he comes in, but he's further along than people believe." There is a possibility that Bickerstaff will remain interim head coach even after D'Antoni's introductory news conference, according to a source, if D'Antoni isn't feeling physically able to coach games just yet.
Part of the current crop of leftovers from Brown's staff are expected to be retained by D'Antoni, along with "one or two" new coaches that he will bring in with him, according to a source. Two candidates to join D'Antoni are his older brother and longtime assistant, Dan D'Antoni, as well Phil Weber, another longtime aide.
D'Antoni spent five seasons coaching Nash in Phoenix. Nash won two MVP awards while running D'Antoni's signature up-tempo offense, and they won at least 54 games in each of D'Antoni's last four seasons.
D'Antoni then coached New York for the past four seasons, resigning last March after a largely unsuccessful tenure featuring just one playoff appearance and no postseason victories.
Nash and Bryant expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of playing for D'Antoni, although Bryant eagerly campaigned for a third stint for Jackson on the Lakers' bench. Bryant idolized D'Antoni while growing up in Italy, where D'Antoni was a star player in the Italian league.
"Obviously I think everyone knows how much I love Mike," Nash said Sunday night prior to the hiring. "If (D'Antoni) were to coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well."
The Lakers have improved to 3-4 after following up their winless preseason with four losses in their first five regular-season games, the club's worst start since 1993.
Brown was fired after the Lakers stumbled badly out of the gate, struggling to learn his Princeton-inflected offense and playing mediocre defense.
D'Antoni has a reputation as an offensive-minded coach, although his NBA teams typically have played fairly solid defense, statistically speaking.
The Lakers' next game is Tuesday night against San Antonio. Phoenix visits Staples Center on Friday.