Mike D’Antoni regrets leaving the Phoenix Suns to coach the New York Knicks.
In an interview with ESPN.com, the new Los Angeles Lakers coach admitted he made a mistake.
“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” he says, looking down at the sideline in Memphis, pacing on that unstable right leg.
“I should have stuck in there and battled. You don’t get to coach somebody like him [Nash] too many times. It’s pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn’t.”
D’Antoni has never told Nash this.
Nash remained with the Suns until the summer of 2012, when a sign-and-trade deal was orchestrated to send the two-time league MVP to the Lakers.
At the time he left, D’Antoni and the Suns were coming off a rather tumultuous year in 2008. Steve Kerr had taken over as GM, the team traded Shawn Marion to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O’Neal, and Phoenix fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
In the article, D’Antoni admitted he was frustrated with how the season went and “probably irrationally made a decision” as soon as the season ended. Looking back, he says he probably should have waited a little bit before making any kind of move.
Interestingly enough, though, there were some who thought it was a mutual parting between the Suns and their coach. After all, Kerr wanted a greater emphasis on defense, and asked D’Antoni to hire a defensive assistant to help on that end of the court. It was believed the coach took offense to the idea that his way of doing things would not get the job done, and thus decided to bolt.
Turns out, the Suns were not really looking to replace their coach until they had to.
When the Knicks job came open in the spring of 2008, the Suns let him go.
“No. It was me,” D’Antoni admits now. “I initiated it and I probably shouldn’t have.”
The Suns have gone through two coaches since then, as they hired Terry Porter to replace D’Antoni and then promoted Alvin Gentry to replace Porter. Phoenix reached the Western Conference Finals in 2010, but has landed in the lottery each of the last two seasons.
As for D’Antoni, he won just 121 games over more than three seasons in the Big Apple before resigning in March of 2012. The Lakers hired him to replace Mike Brown in early November.