Mike D’Antoni certainly had a good night last Wednesday. Not only the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the seventh seed in the West with an overtime victory over the Houston Rockets, but also general manager Mitch Kupchak stated after the game that there won’t be any changes at the head coaching position for the 2013-2014 season, as first reported by the L.A. Times. On top of that, D’Antoni was named today the Western Conference Coach of the Month.
Yeah, he’s back. I think he’s done a great job,” Kupchak told The L.A. Times. “There’s been no discussions otherwise.
Kupchak acknowledged that being the Lakers head coach this season would’ve been a tough task for anyone. The extremely high expectations since day one, the several injuries to the team’s best players, the media and fans pressure and the struggles on the court have been putting the captain of the Purple and Gold ship in the spotlight night in and night out, with even more intensity than what is normal with anything related to the Lakers franchise and its huge tradition.
I think under the circumstances, Mike did a great job. We don’t anticipate any kind of a change. No training camp, all the injuries, through the end of the season he’s done a great job. He doesn’t get enough credit, and understandably so. We struggled through two-thirds of the season, and expectations were so high. The Lakers didn’t help things by making the coaching change and putting Mike in that situation, which he was glad to take. I thought he made adjustments and remained flexible with the players. We’re not playing the same way we played when he first got here.
Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak, via ESPN
However, that full support to D’Antoni was most likely not the case on January 28th, when the Purple and Gold hit eight games below the 0.500 mark with a loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis. But the season took an upswing from that point on, as the Lakers won 28 of their remaining 40 contests in the regular season to get back into the playoff race and secure a spot in the post-season. In other words, D’Antoni’s squad won 70% of their games since the loss in Memphis, an average equal to the Spurs’ for the whole season, their opponents in the first round of the Playoffs.
The icing on the cake came in the way of being named the Coach of the Month in the Western Conference, as the Lakers won seven of their eight games in April, including five straight victories, to grab the seventh playoff seed while having to adjust to Kobe Bryant’s season-ending injury.
The Purple and Gold will certainly hope that Mike D’Antoni can turn that award into Coach of the Year, whether it happens this season or in the next one.