EL SEGUNDO, California, (Reuters) – Mike D’Antoni, controversially appointed over 11-time NBA championship winner and fan favourite Phil Jackson as the new Lakers head coach, has promised to try to return ‘Showtime’ basketball to Los Angeles.
D’Antoni is renowned for the offense-minded approach he adopted while in charge of the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks and said he has set his sights on continuing in the same vein with one of the NBA’s most storied franchises.
“We would love to be able to play ‘Showtime’ basketball,” D’Antoni told reporters after being formally introduced as the 24th Lakers head coach at the team’s training facility yesterday, six days after his predecessor Mike Brown was fired.
“We would like to get to some place close to that. That would be awesome.”
The 16-time NBA champion Lakers have made a habit of scaling giddy heights, and their fans will never forget the “Showtime” era from 1979-1989 when Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spearheaded the team.
D’Antoni, who had knee replacement surgery earlier this month, used crutches while conducting his first practice with the Lakers earlier in the day, a session that ended with the players shouting “Championship” as they huddled together.
“There’s no hiding it, that’s our goal,” smiled D’Antoni, who repeatedly marveled at the abundant talent in his All-Star studded team boasting top players such as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
However, the new coach is well aware he faces a narrow window in the drive toward a 17th NBA title with every member of the Lakers starting five aged above 30.
“We’re built to win this year. This is not a project,” said D’Antoni. “We have a window and we’re going to try to get through it.