If the Los Angeles Lakers flop in the NBA playoffs after avoiding the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the postseason for the first time since the 2004-05 season, many fans know exactly where they will place a load of the blame and how to fix the problem.
“I think our coach needs to get it together,” said Liz Meres, 29, a longtime Lakers fan. “We don’t rebound, get back on defense or hustle. Phil needs to get back with the Lakers so we can get another ring.”
On the last day of the NBA's regular season, ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne report that sources say former Lakers coach Phil Jackson is ‘itching’ for a return to the NBA.
Now, it seems to fans, the Lakers are fighting for their coach’s job.
“If the Lakers lose tonight, I hope [Mike D’Antoni] is done,” said Lakers fan Luis Ramirez before the outcome of the Jazz-Grizzlies game was known. “I don’t like his ‘offense-first philosophy’ and ... everything else. Personally, I think we should have just stayed with Mike Brown. At least that guy stressed defense."
Since a four-game losing streak in mid-January, D’Antoni have led the Lakers to a 27-12 record and a playoff berth, which many said was impossible after the slow start under Brown.
Because of the strong finish to the season and all five starters missing significant time because of injuries, some fans are willing to give D’Antoni a pass.
“The Lakers had so many injuries during the season that I can’t really blame the coach. That’s just how things go sometimes,” said Cassie Valenti of Florida, who was on her honeymoon and going to her first Lakers game. “I am just sad I won’t get to see Kobe play.”
Jackson’s “itching” to get back into the NBA might be more of a front office role and not roaming the sidelines, but that hasn’t stopped many fans from dreaming about a return of the coach that brought five championships to the Lakers organization.
"I don’t think he is going to come back to the Lakers, but it would be nice, “ said Caesar Lara. “If we lose tonight, I think it is 50/50 D’Antoni comes back. But it seems like management loves him.”