Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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By JOSH NEWMANSpecial to ZAGSBLOG
With former Knicks head coach and new Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni out from under the umbrella of Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman James Dolan, he is now free to speak his mind.
In a Monday afternoon story from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, D’Antoni, who was hired as the coach of the Lakers on Nov. 12, expressed regret over his tenure with the Knicks, which began with the 2008-09 season and ended 42 games into the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
D’Antoni left the Phoenix Suns for the Knicks after five highly-successful seasons, which included three Pacific Division titles and two trips to the Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006.
Leaving Phoenix also meant he was leaving his point guard, Steve Nash, who has built a Hall of Fame career thanks in part to D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll offense.
“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” D’Antoni said. “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.”
While still coach of the Suns, D’Antoni received permission in May, 2008 to speak with other teams about coaching opportunities. He eventually accepted the Knicks’ offer of four years and $24 million.
His first two years in Manhattan were a wash as the franchise positioned itself to make a run at free agent-to-be LeBron James in the Summer of 2010. That never materialized, but the Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire, traded for Carmelo Anthony and made the playoffs for the first time in a decade in 2011.
D’Antoni resigned in March after an 18-24 start and a relationship with Anthony that was presumed to be icy. D’Antoni and Anthony reunited with Team USA at the London Olympics in August.
Five games into this season, Lakers head coach Mike Brown was fired, D’Antoni was hired for $12 million over three years and now has a second chance with Nash, not to mention having Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol at his disposal.
“I probably irrationally made a decision right when the season was over,” D’Antoni said of his decision to leave Phoenix in 2008. “You should take a month to figure it out. I shouldn’t have left. That was my fault.”
D’Antoni’s comments should only add to the anticipation of his return to Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13 when the Lakers visit the Knicks in a nationally-televised game on TNT.
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