LOS ANGELES(CBS/AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers will no longer be searching for a new coach when they take the floor Tuesday night, but their newest employee won’t be on the bench quite yet.
Two days after hiring Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach, the Lakers will face the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.
Los Angeles made the hire late Sunday night, though it remains uncertain when D’Antoni – who underwent knee replacement surgery recently – will join the team. His first game will be Friday against Phoenix, one of his former teams.
“Dr. (Jerry) Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak unanimously agreed that Mike was the best coach for this roster at this time,” Lakers spokesman John Black said.
D’Antoni most recently coached New York before resigning in March. His hiring by Los Angeles brings him together with Kobe Bryant, who idolized the former Olimpia Milano star while growing up in Italy.
“We have a great relationship,” said Bryant after morning shoot around. “The offense that was installed for our Team USA, we won two gold medals. It was an offense that was flexible — I was open and it kept everyone involved. It worked pretty well. — He’s an offensive genius”
The new coach will likely have to wait a while to utilize point guard Steve Nash, who is expected to miss at least another week due to a small fracture in his leg. Nash, who won two NBA MVP awards while running D’Antoni’s offense with the Suns, has missed the last five games.
Bryant spoke with both Mitch and Jimmy Buss before anything happened and first Kobe didn’t even know Phil Jackson was even a choice.
“To be honest, Coach D’Antoni was my first choice because I didn’t know Phil Jackson was even a choice,” said Bryant. “They knew the two guys I liked and they had my approval.”
D’Antoni is known to be competitive guy — a ‘feisty and temperamental dude,’ something Kobe loves about him.
Steve Blake, who started those games in place of Nash, will miss Tuesday’s contest with a minor abdominal strain.
The Spurs and Lakers have split their last 10 meetings, with San Antonio taking two of three last season – including a 112-91 road victory April 17. Parker had 29 points on 14-of-20 shooting along with 13 assists in that game, which Bryant missed with an injury.