Chuck McGill: D’Antoni courtship over, Marshall search changes course
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mike Hamrick put the full-court press on Mike D’Antoni.
The ultimate press breaker: A multi-year, multi-million dollar contract.
Hamrick, who is in his sixth year as Marshall’s athletic director, courted D’Antoni, the Los Angeles Lakers head coach, from the moment Tom Herrion resigned as Marshall University’s coach March 14.
The courtship, however, is over.
Sources told the Charleston Daily Mail on Tuesday afternoon that D’Antoni will remain the head coach of the Lakers and, thus, will not be in position to accept the vacant Herd hoops job.
D’Antoni is staying put. Hamrick is moving on.
It is clear Hamrick went all-in to lure D’Antoni from the bright lights of L.A. to the hills of West Virginia. The Herd AD visited D’Antoni in Los Angeles for four days to make his pitch for D’Antoni to come home. D’Antoni, 62, played college ball at Marshall from 1970-73, about 130 miles from his hometown of Mullens.
Make no mistake — there was mutual interest. That is why the coaching search is at 40 days and counting. Hamrick waited. And waited. And waited. If the Lakers made a move, Hamrick was ready to pounce and D’Antoni was ready to slip on that Kelly green jacket once and for all.
D’Antoni met with Lakers brass — team executive Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak — multiple times this week to discuss D’Antoni’s future with the organization. At this point, the Lakers just aren’t going to budge and are adamant about keeping D’Antoni as the coach. D’Antoni is two years through a three-year, $12 million contract he signed on Nov. 12, 2012. The Lakers hold a team option for a fourth season that would bring D’Antoni back for the 2015-16 campaign at another $4 million.
This season, D’Antoni compiled his worst full-season record (27-55) in 12 seasons as an NBA head coach and the injury-riddled Lakers finished in last place in the Pacific Division. But as Kupchak told the media last week, D’Antoni is “under contract for two more years. If anything changes, we’ll let you know.”
It doesn’t appear anything is going to change, so Marshall must change directions.
D’Antoni had to let Hamrick know the dream was not going to come to fruition, and now Hamrick must shift the focus to one of the six sitting Division I coaches he interviewed.
Expect the new Herd men’s basketball coach to be named by the end of the week or early next week, according to sources. Marshall officials are working with a short time frame before this weekend’s Green-White Spring Game festivities. Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards is speaking with the media on Friday at 5 p.m. before the Big Green dinner. The spring game is Saturday at 2 p.m., so if the coaching search cannot be wrapped up in the next 48 hours, the first of the week is a safe bet.
This has to be a punch to the gut for Hamrick and many Marshall fans, though. It is certainly a risky maneuver for Hamrick to wait from mid-March until late April to fill the vacancy, but he owed to D’Antoni — who’d been bypassed for the Herd job previously — and the fan base to pursue this with gusto.
The Mikes — D’Antoni and Hamrick — are tight. It is why D’Antoni agreed to be a co-chair of Hamrick’s Vision Campaign, and why D’Antoni contributed $250,000 to the fundraising effort. Hamrick retired D’Antoni’s No. 10 jersey number, which can never again be worn at Marshall. Next, Hamrick will name part of one of the new facilities for the D’Antoni family.
So far this offseason, there have been 39 coaching changes at the Division I level. All have been filled except for Maine, Southern Mississippi and Missouri ... and those three gigs opened in the past week.
It is a risk that Hamrick needed to take. He needed to give one of Marshall’s favorite sons the opportunity to finish the NBA regular season and learn his fate.
D’Antoni is still wanted in L.A., so he gave Hamrick the word — he won’t be joining the Herd.