It this week’s edition of correcting ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, the subject is Los Angeles Laker coach Mike D’Antoni. On his radio show simulcast on ESPNU, this past Monday, the Herd wanted to make the case that going forward D’Antoni was the wrong coach for Lakers. And more specifically he’s wrong for Laker center and now free agent Dwight Howard.
This is a fair and debatable topic that I have no problem with. I can understand both points of view. In fact I recently wrote a blog that the Lakers, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder might be haunted by not hiring Phil Jackson.
Where the Herd went wrong is when he went all “shock jock” and started talking out of his rear-end slamming D’Antoni. His over the top rant was that D’Antoni always under performed as a head coach in the playoffs.
This is absurd. Two minutes of fact checking disproves this. There is no reason for The Herd not to know this.
So let’s look at the facts. Mike D’Antoni inherited a terrible team, mid-season, when he was the coach of the Phoenix Suns. He was 20-41 in 2003/04. He went on to coach for four full seasons. How did the Suns do in the playoffs in those years?
- 2004-5: They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. (Who beat the defending champion Detroit Pistons.)
- 2005-6: They lose in the Western Conference Finals to the higher seeded Dallas Mavericks.
- 2006-7: They lose in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. This is the year where Robert Horry gave Steve Nash a cheap shot in front of Phoenix’s bench that led to some suspensions of player’s like Amar’e Stoudemire. The Spurs also won a game in this series thanks to a Tim Duncan three-point shot sending the game into O.T. Not exactly a failure of strategy.
- 2007-8: Lost in the first round to the higher seeded San Antonio Spurs.
Saying D’Antoni always under performed because he primarily couldn’t get by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs dynasty is like saying Pat Riley under performed as head coach of the Knicks because NY couldn’t get past Phil Jackson and the Bulls.
Which series, specifically, did D’Antoni under perform Herd? Hhmm??
Yes Colin, D’Antoni did have two-time MVP Steve Nash. But not many would make the argument he was the best player in the game. In fact many made the argument that Shaquille O’Neal deserved the MVP one of those years. But no doubt Nash was great. You know who else is great Herd? Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
In New York, D’Antoni inherited a team that was in massive salary cap dump mode to clear room to try to lure Lebron James as a free agent. Between roster turnover, injury, and the lockout, it is hard to slam D’Antoni for his one first round playoff loss to the Boston Celtics while in NY.
In L.A… He is hired after the start of the season. So no training camp. Pau Gasol misses significant time due to injury. Steve Nash misses time due to injury including some playoff games. Kobe Bryant misses the playoffs. Dwight Howard isn’t fully recovered from back surgery, and tears a labrum in his shoulder. Metta-World-Peace has knee surgery during the season.
This is just part of the Laker’s laundry list of things that went wrong this season. And as a seventh seed they lose to D’Antoni’s old nemesis the San Antonio Spurs. Is this a clear example of under performing?
Whether it is Phil Jackson or anyone else Herd, if you want to make a case for a different coach make it. But don’t slander a coach and misrepresent the record. You might be able to make a point about a D’Antoni team under performing in a season or two but always? Not even close.
The reasons he doesn’t? The choices are:
- He and his production team are incompetent.
- They’re negligent.
- He has a vendetta against D’Antoni.
- He is a shock jock for ratings and doesn’t care whose career or reputation he might hurt.
You’re good enough without this Colin. You should clean it up.