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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Lakers introduced new head coach Mike D’Antoni at a press conference Thursday afternoon at the El Segundo practice facility.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak introduced D’Antoni after the team’s practice at the Toyota Center.
D’Antoni was hired by the Lakers organization late Sunday night over former skipper and 11-time NBA championship winner, Phil Jackson.
D’Antoni, who came in facility with crutches from a recent knee replacement surgery, is excited to start with his new team and will likely make his Lakers debut on Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m really happy to be here,” said D’Antoni. “I’m Excited! We are built to win this year. This is not a project.”
The drama began after the Lakers fired Mike Brown on October 9 after a 1-4 start.
D’Antoni said he couldn’t believe Brown’s firing happened so quickly. But he saw an opportunity.
“Are you kidding me! It’s an unbelievable feeling of, ‘I really got a shot.’ Being able to coach this type of team, in this city, this weather, what’s not to like,” D’Antoni said.
Expectations are high, from the fans base to the front office, but D’Antoni can’t think of a better group to coach in trying to win the franchise’s 17th NBA title.
“Our expectations are to win a championship. We have the team and players to do that,” he added. “I can’t think of a better group, better city and a better fan base in trying to get it done.”
D’Antoni’s assistant (his brother Dan) ran most of the practice as Mike observed around the perimeter on his crutches.
The new Lakers coach is not in unfamiliar territory. While in Phoenix, he coached two–time MVP Steve Nash. He coached Team USA members Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, where they won Olympic gold in the London Olympics.
Part of the reason Kupchak went with D’Antoni’s style was simplicity of the offense.
Kupchak’s train of thought was, since the Lakers didn’t understand the Princeton offense, how would they get Jackson’s complex triangle?
“Our offensive philosophy will have a rhythm to it,” said D’Antoni. “We’ll open the floor to make things easy as we can with great players. You do that and things will flow.”
D’Antoni signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Lakers. The contract also includes a team option for a fourth season.