Webber rips Lakers for hiring D’Antoni after he ‘quit’ on Knicks
By Ben Golliver
The Knicks won’t soon forget 2012. Between Linsanity, Amar’e Stoudemire’s punching a fire extinguisher, a whirlwind summer that included the decision not to retain Jeremy Lin and the team’s league-best 5-0 start to the 2012-13 season, it’s easy to forget the depths of March, when Mike D’Antoni abruptly resigned as coach amid rumors of tension with All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. Chris Webber, however, never forgets.
Webber, a rising star in NBA broadcasting circles, unloaded on D’Antoni for bailing on his team last season and questioned whether the Lakers made a mistake in hiring a coach who allegedly breached the trust with his former players so directly. Video of his comments, aired on NBA TV, is posted above. Here’s what he said:
“We get on players for getting tickets and driving too fast. He quit in the middle of a year. You go in the locker room and sell winning and sell family … Guys got to trust you in the locker room. It has to be more than Kobe [Bryant]. It has to be.
“You don’t want your coach writing a book about you, you don’t want your coach talking about you and you don’t want your coach quitting on you and it being your fault. Ask the guys in New York, and they played better when he left. I don’t think this is about Phil Jackson, I think this is like, ‘How the heck did he [D'Antoni] get this job? You all want to be that different from Phil Jackson?’ That’s my honest opinion. How the heck did he get that job?
“Saying, as a fan, How did he get this job? Just as a fan. Seriously, just wanting to know. How did he get it?”
He’s not speaking as a fan, of course, but as a 15-year veteran and No. 1 overall pick who endured more than his fair share of criticism along the way. Webber caught heat for everything from receiving illegal benefits while at the University of Michigan, to underperforming after suffering a serious knee injury, to generally failing to live up to massive expectations, despite averaging 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks for his career.
Webber is correct in stating that players are generally held to a higher level of accountability than coaches and that they are subjected to harsher scrutiny when the relationship breaks down. That’s only natural. After a coach departs, he’s gone. Picture Jerry Sloan on his farm in the Midwest or Jackson in Montana. The players, for better or worse, remain on stages like Madison Square Garden, where they catch a vast majority of the blame if things go wrong.
This double-standard treatment isn’t Webber’s larger point. His larger point is that D’Antoni has a lot of work to do in earning trust, something that has been taken as a given because of his relationships with Bryant and Steve Nash. Webber went on to state that the Lakers should have considered Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw, a former Lakers assistant and a finalist for the head-coaching job that went to Mike Brown in 2011, because there was no questioning his trustworthiness.
“Being a player who has been criticized, D’Antoni is just the coach or the pawn in this situation. It’s not about the man or how good of a person he is. I’m sure he’s a great man. Where do you go? I’m about to tell you. You take all your pride away. … You go get Brian Shaw. I’m not saying that because I know him or anything. He’s trusted by players, more than D’Antoni. Let me say that again: He’s trusted by players more than D’Antoni. He not only played … he was the rock who said, I don’t care how much I get paid and I don’t care about politics in the locker room; I’m going to make sure we win. I wish I played with guys like that.”
D’Antoni’s resignation from the Knicks came on March 15, shortly after a six-game losing streak. Anthony was back in the lineup, after missing time earlier in the year, and the chemistry between Anthony and Lin was lacking. While critics had been calling for his job for some time, D’Antoni had received some backing from the organization and, once he departed, he never offered much of an explanation for why he hung it up midseason instead of riding it out for another few months or letting ownership pull the plug.
His relative silence on his departure from the Knicks would seem to indicate a desire to keep internal conflicts away from the press. At the same time, his silence exposes him to criticism like Webber’s; he can’t easily respond without coming across like he’s airing dirty laundry, which, in the eyes of critics, would only further damage his standing among his new players. This is a no-win situation for D’Antoni and he needs to take these lumps and move on.