Mitch Kupchak knows how to make Phil Jackson laugh.
And giggle is exactly what the Zen Master did when the Los Angeles Lakers general manager told him he thought Mike D'Antoni was a better fit for the team than him.
"I laughed," Jackson told ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning (via Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com). "It was humorous to me when Mitch said that 'we think that Mike is a better coach for this group of guys.'"
I laughed too. It wasn't just what Kupchak said, though. It was when he said it—at midnight. Phoning a 67-year-old Jackson in the middle of the night just seems comical.
Once Jackson finished reminiscing, he offered a more candid explanation of why he burst into a fit of laughter:
When Mitch gave me the call close to midnight on Sunday night right before I was going to give them an answer Monday morning and said, 'We've made a choice. We're going to hire Mike D'Antoni. We think he's the best coach for this group of guys,' My answer was, 'For Steve Nash, yes, I agree, but for Dwight Howard, I'm not so sure.'
Dwight Howard would likely concur. D'Antoni isn't known for his use of big men, and Jackson certainly could have done his game more justice.
You get the feeling that the Lakers just wanted to move on, though.
Magic Mike was the better option for a guy like Steve Nash. He knows how to render point guards effective, after all (a la Jeremy Lin). But when looking at the future for the Lakers, Howard was it. Why not just go with the man who you know can get the most out of him?
His health? Demands? Relationship and inevitable engagement to Jeanie Buss?
Any number of mitigating circumstances could have factored in.
Jackson guided the Lakers to five championships, and he aided in Kobe Bryant's evolution as a player and person. He left his mark on one of the most storied franchise in all of sports.
It was just time to move on from that legacy, the same one that was slightly tainted by the strained relationship that existed between the two parties when Jackson last retired.
"I don't see myself coaching again, I really don't," Jackson admitted.
That's what the Lakers were afraid of. Which really isn't funny at all.
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