Mike D’Antoni: 2014 Exit Interview


- On his thoughts on this season:
“We’ve talked about it almost every day for the last couple months. A lot of the injuries were odd injuries that don’t usually occur on a basketball team. It happened and we dealt with it as best we could. Nobody is happy how the season went. It was tough from the very beginning. Some things had to break right and they didn’t break right. We could never get that full array of guys healthy at the same time.”

- On if it angers him or frustrates him that he’s being criticized:
“No, I think every NBA coach coming off a year that goes sideways, (they) should be under scrutiny. It’s part of the job. I think as coaches, we hold ourselves under scrutiny. We see what we could have done better, should have done this better, should have done that. There will come a day where I sit down with management and see where they want to go, and try to get on the same page.”

- On if it’s fair fans are criticizing him or blaming him despite all the injuries (L.A. missed a league-leading 319 games due to injury/illness):
“I think so. There’s always things we could have done better. I think that’s normal. Our job is to: ‘What could we have done better?’ It’s easier in hindsight to say we should have done this or should have done that. For the most part, our guys were competitive and we developed some guys. There were some silver linings in there, but as a whole, the season was very disappointing for everybody.”

- On if the pace the team plays at contributed to or played a factor in all the injuries this season:
“To me, it’s ludicrous. To me, the pace you play and the way you spread the floor leads to less injuries just because you don’t pound and hit. To me, that leads to less (injuries). I don’t believe in that.”

- On his relationship with Kobe Bryant now:
Professional. He’s a big time competitor and he’s going to do anything to win. I’m competitive and I’m going to try and do anything to win. Sometimes that does butt heads a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

- On if the last two seasons have been diluted at all:
“A little bit. But we didn’t get the best of anything because of injuries. When that happens you don’t get a traction or consistency in the play. That happens. It’s a byproduct of losing or struggling and you can’t get over the hump but quite can’t get there for whatever reason.”

- On how the game has changed over the years from when he first implemented his system in Phoenix until now, where he sees the game going in the future and how it’s played:
“I do think the game is changing and it has changed. Some of the hard part of coaching is to be able to drag people over to the next side. People are comfortable with doing business a certain way. When that business kind of shifts to get people to change, it’s not easy. It’s a process. I do think the league is going to a more open style and a faster style. Analytics not only are gut feelings from people and coaches, but analytics have also proven certain things. Again, the problem comes when they start debating this is that you get into black and whites. It’s not that. There’s always a grey area and you always tweak it. One team is a little faster than the other, one spreads it a little bit more than someone else. I hear all the time: ‘The two-point shot is going away.’ No, it’s never going away. It’s always going to be there. It might – and I’m making numbers up – go from 50 times to 43, but those other seven times are more three’s. That could happen and it will happen and it has happened. But that doesn’t mean there’s no place for a post up player or no place for a mid-range game. There is a place. It’s just not what is dominant today and will be. Unless the NBA changes the rules again, like the three-point line and the no hand checking, then basketball is going a certain way. The problem is most people commenting on it played a different way and now you’re shaping opinion a different way. That’s not where it’s going to go. As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think they’re better off. But basketball has changed, and it’s not the same basketball that your father played. It’s just not it. The teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful quicker.”

- On if the Lakers have adopted that philosophy:
“I think it’s been a process and will be a process. That’s probably the most challenging part is changing opinions. You need everything to go the right way and it didn’t. So opinions out there that say that doesn’t work are not convinced of it. That’s the challenging part of the league.”

- On how he wins over the fanbase and changes public opinion whether his style of play is effective:
“Winning. That’s the only way you can do it. They have the right to feel the way they feel because we didn’t have a great year. That comes with being a fan. Opinion is shaped by the record. You have a hard time explaining this works when you lose 10 in a row.”

- On how he managed to keep the guys positive under the circumstances:
“I think it starts with the coaching staff that comes every day with a positive attitude trying to get better. I think the players feed off that. If they know you’re genuinely in it for them, and you’ll take as much criticism or more for them than they are, they’ll buy in unless they’re bad guys. And we didn’t have bad guys. We had great guys. I think that the coaching staff did a great job of never letting down one day. Never had those days. Players didn’t have those days. They were dealt an unbelievably bad hand coming in here. Things had to break right and it didn’t. It broke the worst way possible, but they hung in there and did their job exceedingly well for the hand they were dealt without a lot of support for them. I’m proud of them for their character.”

- On Pau Gasol’s play the last two seasons playing in his system:
“In his mind, he’d like to play a little differently. He had success in different ways. But I think his stats and his play showed he can be effective in any system. It doesn’t matter. Again, I think that at the end of both years, he had really good (games). He started off slow both years and that’s where we kind of got in trouble. His play the first three or four months wasn’t the Pau Gasol, and he turned into it. At the end, we might have a little different philosophy, but at the same time, I feel he played really well.”

- On his optimism Steve Nash will be able to play next season without any nagging injuries:
“I’m optimistic he’ll give everything he’s got to play. He loves to play basketball, he loves to be a great teammate, he loves to win, he’s an unbelievable competitor in his own way. That I am optimistic. Can he do it? I don’t know with his injuries. I’m not a doctor. I know the reservations. He’s 40 years old. Everybody has those. He has them, but he will battle and try to be effective at whatever role he has. I know for sure he’ll give everything he’s got to get there.”

- On how much faith has that L.A. will be able to turn it around to get back on the right track:
“One-hundred percent. There’s no doubt. L.A. is a great destination for anybody. You don’t have all those banners for nothing. Jim (Buss) Mitch (Kupchak) do an unbelievable job at maximizing the possibilities. But it does take time. There are (rules) in place. It takes a little bit of luck and tweaking, but there’s no doubt they’ll get it done.”