By Jahmal Corner
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Mike D’Antoni has resigned as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, ending an unhappy two-season tenure with the struggling NBA franchise.
The 62-year-old still had a year to run on his $12 million three-year contract but the team announced on Tuesday that he had decided to step down.
D’Antoni joined the Lakers in November, 2012 after Mike Brown was fired following just 71 games in charge. Under D’Antoni’s guidance, the Lakers compiled a 67-87 record.
“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement.
“On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”
The Lakers limped into the playoffs in D’Antoni’s first year in charge but finished the 2013-14 season with a dismal 27-55 record, the worst 82-game return in team history.
There had been growing speculation about his position with the fading team and his departure was greeted warmly by one of his more outspoken and high-profile critics.
“Happy days are here again. Mike D’Antoni resigns as Lakers coach. I couldn’t be happier,” Lakers great Magic Johnson tweeted.
D’Antoni had previously worked as head coach of the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, compiling a career record of 455-426.
He was named NBA coach of the year for the 2004-05 season after leading the Suns to the Western Conference finals. He led Phoenix to the same stage the following year and was appointed the Western Conference coach for the 2007 All-Star Game.
A proponent of the fast-break and up-tempo offense, D’Antoni’s style never really worked with a Lakers roster that was plagued by injuries to key players.
Kobe Bryant managed just six games this season while Steve Nash, who also served under D’Antoni at Phoenix, played just 15 times. He also lost the services of Dwight Howard after just one season when the player left to join Houston.
D’Antoni is the fourth head coach to leave the Lakers in the past three years with the winners of 16 National Basketball Association titles, second only the Boston Celtics, falling on hard times since the departure of Phil Jackson in 2011.
In his statement, Kupchak said the search for a replacement would begin immediately, although no timetable had been established.
There was no immediate comment from D’Antoni about his departure but his agent told ESPN that his client and the Lakers had “hit an insurmountable impasse.”
(Editing by Julian Linden/John O’Brien)