A summary of Mitch D’Antoni’s 2013 Exit Interview:
- On the season: “It was a bit of a roller coaster, obviously. A lot of disappointment at the end. Due to a lot of circumstances, we started off slow and got us in a hole. The last 40 games, we played well. Disappointed we couldn’t do anything in the playoffs – a lot of it due to injuries. We had ourselves set up to make a run, but we didn’t do it. Guys hung in there and battled back, and played April really well. There were some good things moving forward, and hopefully we can build off that.”
- D’Antoni was brought in to be himself as he’d done in the past, and didn’t have Steve Nash or Steve Blake when he took over the team. He said he wanted to wait and see how things would go once he got his point guards back, but eventually, he figured out how things would work, and the team played well down the stretch. Clearly, he was frustrated by having his top four guards out in the playoffs, but that was a microcosm of how the season went.
- With that said, D’Antoni was pleased with how the players competed through the end: “The thing that came out of it was the players hung in there, they wanted to get it done for Los Angeles, for themselves, for the organization and there was no panic in our room, and because of that, they let you work through the problems. I thought we worked through them and that’s a great thing for the players to take out of this season.”
- On the importance of having a full offseason and training camp to implement his system: “I think it highly impacts it. I’m looking forward to training camp. One of the biggest improvements we can get is in September, when you work individually with players on their strengths, get them tuned into what we do and then try to put the pieces together in October. I’m excited already – that’s what I like to do, and I (can’t wait).”
- D’Antoni mentioned in Memphis back in January that the team was basically an All-Star team, with four guys in particular used to being “Alpha Dogs.” The team was 17-25 at that time, but finally figured things out at that point towards a collective goal, and rallied to turn the season around and get into the playoffs. “There has to be a pecking order, and it took awhile to get used to it. I don’t think they resisted it – it just took awhile. I knew it was going to be hard .. I think it was a process and everything went into it. A lot of the early losing, I thought, was because we weren’t in great shape. That feeds into: ‘What’s my role?’ We had to get through it and you go back to the players. They did not give up. They could have. A lot of teams would have, and they didn’t do it. They fought back.”
- On how he’ll deal with Kobe next season, coming off a major injury, and if he works next to Steve Nash: “I think it was Wilt Chamberlain that said ‘You don’t handle players, you work with them.’ We’ll sit down and talk, but that at the end of the day, we’ll go on the floor and do what we need to win.” Basically, they’ll figure it out together. Said he thinks Kobe and Nash will be more comfortable playing off each other, that they eventually figured things out as the season went on, though it was rare that they were both healthy.
- In Bryant’s exit interview, he alluded to the team being a championship-caliber squad should everybody return and stay healthy. D’Antoni had this to say regarding his comments: “I think championship should be an expectation. Realistically we have enough talent here that there will be enough to where our goal is a championship.”