For three decades, the Los Angeles Lakers have specialized in championships and high drama. Their latest spin of the coaching wheel -- which began with Phil Jackson and ended, surprisingly, with Mike D'Antoni -- proves that they are still masters of the dramatic arts.
The Lakers fired Mike Brown on Friday. They wooed Jackson on Saturday, all but guaranteeing him the job. Then they hired D'Antoni late Sunday night, stunning fans, team employees and most of the NBA.
Until he got the call from general manager Mitch Kupchak late Sunday, even D'Antoni's agent expected Jackson to get the job.
"We're as surprised as everybody waking up and reading about it," the agent, Warren LeGarie, said Monday.
D'Antoni, 61, received a three-year, $12 million contract, with a team option for a fourth year. He underwent knee replacement surgery earlier this month, and Lakers spokesman John Black said the team isn't certain when D'Antoni will travel to Los Angeles to begin work. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff will continue running the Lakers until D'Antoni arrives.
The hiring reunites D'Antoni with Steve Nash, the point guard who brilliantly ran his offense in Phoenix, and places him in charge of a star-studded lineup -- featuring Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol -- and great expectations. Those expectations cost Brown his job Friday after a 1-4 start.
In a statement, Kupchak called D'Antoni "the right person at this time to lead the Lakers forward."
Jackson was ready to try for a sixth title with the Lakers. He met for 90 minutes with Kupchak and Jim Buss, the Lakers' vice president, on Saturday morning. People briefed on the meeting say that all parties left with an understanding: The franchise wanted Jackson back, and Jackson wanted to return.
Jackson asked for two days to mull the decision and planned to meet with team officials Monday to discuss contract terms. Instead, Jackson said, he was awakened by a call from Kupchak around midnight and given the news that D'Antoni had been hired.
Some news reports indicated that Jackson was demanding too much: an ownership stake, a final say on personnel and permission to skip some road games. Those reports were rebutted by several people involved in the process, with one calling them "ridiculous."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.