Mitch Kupchak Breaks Down the Decision to Hire Mike D’Antoni Over Phil Jackson

November 26, 2012 – 9:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

Perhaps we’ll never truly know what all the parties were hoping, thinking or doing when it comes to the recent coaching situation with the Los Angeles Lakers. Every party — new coach Mike D’Antoni, spurned coaching contender Phil Jackson and now Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak — have given their take, but the dots still haven’t really been connected. That said, Kupchak does his best in this interview to give his side of the story when it comes to picking D’Antoni and calling Jackson at midnight to let him know he wouldn’t be coming back to L.A.

Mitch Kupchak joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss hiring Mike D’Antoni, why he brought Mike Brown back to start this season, if D’Antoni would be the coach if Steve Nash wasn’t on the roster, the entire bizarre scenario surrounding Phil Jackson and the long-term status of Dwight Howard.

How do you think Mike D’Antoni’s style works with a roster in its 30s?:

“It remains to be seen. Clearly, we felt that Mike’s style of play was best-suited for the talent we had on our team. Now, a lot of that has to do with bringing Steve Nash in, but not all of it. We have a very athletic center now, in Dwight Howard.”

Why did you bring Mike Brown back then?:

“Mike did not play this style last year. Upon the conclusion of the season, I think he spoke to some of our players, and at that point he chose to move on to a derivative of the Princeton offense. … Once that decision was made, we went into the offseason, and lo and behold, we got a player that we didn’t think we’d get, Steve Nash. Then, amongst the rumors that we would get Dwight Howard, it didn’t look, at some point, that we would get him. And we got him in August. So the team makeup changed after Mike had made his decision to go to a different offense. … It would not have been fair to make a change last year. … We chose to wait until training camp and see how things go.”

Would D’Antoni be the coach if you didn’t have Steve Nash?:

“That’s a good question. I think it comes down to style of play in training camp and how the team would’ve started. If we would’ve started the same way, maybe we’d have the same concerns. Don’t know.”

On whether Phil Jackson might have surprised him a little with the level of his interest:

“In terms of the timeline, to get it accurate, I did not call anybody on Friday, which was the day that we relieved Mike Brown of his duties. Saturday morning, Jim [Buss] put a call into Phil on Saturday morning. … Although going into it, we didn’t feel Phil wanted to coach, and our choice was Mike D’Antoni, by Saturday morning we felt a very strong obligation to meet with Phil … which is what we did. … We did not offer the job and he did not indicate he wanted the job. At the end of the meeting, he said he needed more time and that he’d get back to us on Monday. At that point, I said, ‘Well, Phil, you know I have a job to do; I have to contact other candidates.’ … After that meeting, I did call, for the first time, Mike D’Antoni. That was Saturday afternoon, and I also spoke to another coach that I interviewed.”

So if Phil would’ve said yes on Saturday, would he be your coach?:

“We would’ve huddled up right away with Dr. Buss … and we would’ve made a decision without contacting Mike D’Antoni or that other coach. Certainly, at that point, we felt a lot of pressure to bring Phil back. … We never had the meeting with Dr. Buss, so you’re asking me to speculate. The only thing I could say is that there would be a very high probability that we would’ve made a decision without contacting other coaches.”

Why would Phil say that the call from you that Sunday night was weird and slimy? Do you think that he thought he had the job?:

“I think it was two things. In his defense, it was a lot of third-party phone calls, sources, an NBA source and somebody close to Phil. A lot of that takes place nowadays, and I got the impression now, looking back on it, that he felt the job was his until Monday, to decide. And that wasn’t my understanding of our meeting, but I could see how he could feel that. The other thing is I called him on Sunday at about midnight. That’s an odd time to call somebody, knowing that you’re going to wake them up, which I’m sure I did. But, with Mike D’Antoni, we did not get his contract signed until about 11:30 Sunday night. At that point, the choice for me, was to wait until Monday morning … or wake him up and tell him. I chose the latter, which was to wake him up.”

When will you address a long-term contract with Dwight Howard?:

“We haven’t even begun to address that. Our feeling all along was, get him to Los Angeles, and let the city, let the organization, the fans and the guys on this team convince him that this is the place for him to be. That’s not something we even plan to discuss. … From a business point of view, and I don’t want to get into the collective bargaining agreement, but it really makes no sense for somebody like Dwight right now to sign an extension. … He’s not going to sign anything anyway, so it’s ridiculous to even talk about it.”

Listen to Mitch Kupchak on The Dan Patrick Show here

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