The Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni as coach to replace fired Mike Brown.
LOS ANGELES — Mike D’Antoni, not Phil Jackson, will be the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We signed Mike D’Antoni to a multiyear deal,” Lakers spokesman John Black said, mentioning the team’s owner and top two executives. “Dr. (Jerry) Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were unanimous that Mike D’Antoni was the best coach for the team at this time.”
D’Antoni, 61, coached the New York Knicks from 2008 to March 2012 and the Phoenix Suns before that. He will officially take over the Lakers within a week or two, depending how quickly he recovers from knee-replacement surgery.
Bernie Bickerstaff, an ex-Sonics coach, will remain interim coach of the Lakers (3-4).
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D’Antoni signed a three-year deal for $12 million. The team holds an option for a fourth year.
Jackson was the overwhelming favorite to return to the Lakers until they heard his informal demands, which included a stake in team ownership, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified.
On the other hand, several other people involved in the process rebutted such comments, with one calling them “ridiculous,” The New York Times reported Monday.
Kurt Rambis, one of Jackson’s former assistants who remains a friend, told The New York Times: “I can’t emphasize this enough. All of those things, all of those demands — the salary, the travel, personnel decisions, ownership in the team — those are all categorically false.”
D’Antoni replaces Mike Brown, who was fired Friday after the Lakers began the season 1-4, their worst start since 1993.
Lakers guard Steve Nash had said Sunday it would “be a coup” for the Lakers to bring back Jackson, but also praised D’Antoni.
“Obviously, I think everyone knows how much I love Mike,” said Nash, who played four seasons and won two league most valuable player awards under D’Antoni in Phoenix. “If he were the coach, it would be seamless and terrific for me, and I think the team as well.”
D’Antoni was forced to resign under pressure last season after an 18-24 start by the Knicks.
Superstar Kobe Bryant did not hide his excitement for the prospect of Jackson returning but, like Nash, he was also on board with D’Antoni.
D’Antoni has a 388-339 coaching record in the NBA.
Jackson, 67, told his side of the story in a statement Monday.
“Saturday morning, Jim Buss called to ask if he could come and visit. I didn’t solicit or ask for the opportunity but I welcomed both him and Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach,” Jackson said. “We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a handshake and an understanding that I would have until Monday to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job.
“I was awakened at midnight Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.
“The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who encouraged my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
Bynum’s return delayed
PHILADELPHIA — His debut pushed back yet again, center Andrew Bynum’s first 76ers’ game might not come until 2013.
Bynum, Philadelphia’s 7-foot center, will miss at least five more weeks because of a bone bruise in his right knee and might be held out until early January.
When Bynum was hurt in mid-September, the team initially hoped its newly acquired star would be ready for the season opener Oct. 31. Late last month, though, Sixers officials said he was out indefinitely.
Team officials said the new goal was for Bynum to resume “normal basketball activity” around Dec. 10. The former Laker would need one-to-four weeks of conditioning and practice before he can play a game.
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