LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni resigned Wednesday after less than two seasons on the job.
Team spokesman John Black confirmed D’Antoni’s resignation, ending the brief tenure of the Lakers’ fourth head coach in less than three years.
D’Antoni won 67 of 154 games after taking over the Lakers early in the 2012-13 season, replacing the fired Mike Brown, who lasted just 71 games after replacing 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson in 2011.
The injury-plagued Lakers were 27-55 this season, their worst campaign in more than 50 years and the second-worst winning percentage in club history.
With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol sitting out large chunks of the season while the Lakers lost an NBA-worst 319 man-games to injuries, the 16-time NBA champion franchise missed the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and only the third time in 38 years.
“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”
The 62-year-old D’Antoni had one year left on his contract, but wanted the Lakers to pick up his option year for 2015-16 to have any chance of success. The Lakers apparently refused, leading to D’Antoni’s resignation.
D’Antoni walked away from a $4 million payday for next season, although he may receive a portion of that money as severance.
A phone message left for D’Antoni wasn’t immediately returned.
Despite the Lakers’ injuries on a roster consisting mostly of players on one-year contracts, Los Angeles fans largely directed their anger during a rare down season toward D’Antoni. Lakers great Magic Johnson, who was sharply critical of D’Antoni’s coaching style, hailed the news on his Twitter account.
“Happy days are here again!” Johnson tweeted. “Mike D’Antoni resigns as the Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier!”
D’Antoni also coached the Suns and the Knicks, reaching two Western Conference finals with Nash in Phoenix before having much less success in New York.
D’Antoni’s signature up-tempo style of play seemed an odd match from the start with the aging, ball-dominating Bryant and the Lakers, who ran Jackson’s deliberate triangle offense to perfection.
Lakers owners Jerry and Jim Buss curiously chose D’Antoni to replace Brown over Jackson, who strongly contemplated a return for a third stint on the Los Angeles bench. Jackson became the president of the Knicks in March.
Kupchak said he will begin the search immediately for the Lakers’ fifth head coach since 2011 — including Jackson, who walked away from the team after falling short of a third consecutive championship.
D’Antoni’s departure will allow the Lakers’ overhaul to begin in earnest after their worst season since 1957-58 back in Minneapolis.
Crawford top sixth man
Los Angeles — Clippers guard Jamal Crawford will be named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for the second time in his career, a league official with knowledge of the award said.
The official spoke to AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the league hasn’t announced the award.
Crawford was the Clippers’ third-leading scorer and the NBA’s top-scoring reserve with 18.6 points per game. He added 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game for the two-time Pacific Division champions.
“He’s deserving of it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t know that there’s a more lethal weapon in the league that you could bring off the bench.”
While starting just 24 of his 69 games this season, the shifty veteran guard had his highest scoring average since the 2009-10 season with Atlanta, where he won his first Sixth Man award.