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New Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni meets the public

New Lakers Head Coach Mike D'Antoni at his introductory press conference Thursday, November 15, 2012.
November 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
No, he's not Phil Jackson. But Mike D'Antoni is already impressing players and the media. On his first day as new coach of the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers, he attended a packed news conference held at the Lakers practice facilities in El Segundo.

Let the Mike D'Antoni era begin. If you're a Laker fan who loves "Showtime," you can only hope this sequel is every bit as good as the original.

You can understand why Jim Buss, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak all made a unanimous decision to go with D'Antoni.

D'Antoni limped into his introductory press conference Thursday, coming off knee-replacement surgery. He said he's likely going to make his coaching debut on Sunday.

The Lakers Thursday practice focused on D'Antoni's "run and gun" offense.

D'Antoni does come into a lot of criticism from Laker Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, who criticized Jim Buss, saying D'Antoni is the wrong hire. Johnson wanted former coach Phil Jackson to come back.

"When you think of Lakers, you think of him," said D'Antoni on Thursday. "I've reached out to him and I will reach out to him. We would love to be able to play 'Showtime'-type basketball.

"They might have done it the best, but you can do it. We would like to get someplace close to that, and I think that would be awesome. Our expectation is to win a championship. We have the team and players to do that," said D'Antoni. "And we all know it's going to take everybody staying healthy. It takes this, it takes that. But boy is this fun trying."

D'Antoni signed a three-year deal late Sunday night worth $12 million and that a fourth year is a club option.

The decision came after weekend negotiations with Phil Jackson broke down, shocking a loyal fan base who clamored for the return of Jackson, who led the team to five NBA championships during his tenure. According to ESPN, Jackson's contract requests included $10 million to $15 million annually, a say in personnel decisions, including his eventual replacement, and the ability to skip certain road games. The requests weren't palatable to Lakers owner Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchack.

D'Antoni is known for a fast-paced, up-tempo offense that was successful during his time with the Phoenix Suns, where he also coached new Laker Steve Nash. Nash was the Suns' point guard and was named MVP twice.

"You'll see a better pace and a better flow to the game for all of us, offensively and defensively, and that's what's keeping our hopes very high," Lakers center Dwight Howard said.

Mike Brown was fired as head coach Friday after failure to improve the team's slow 1-4 season start. Meanwhile, the Lakers' record improved to 3-4 during a weekend home stand with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. The team followed up their winless preseason with four losses in their first five regular-season games, the club's worst start since 1993.

D'Antoni resigned from the New York Knicks in March after knee surgery, which he is still recovering from. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff will remain with the team through at least the rest of the week, and D'Antoni is expected to begin coaching his first game next week against the San Antonio Spurs.

ESPN contributed to this report.


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