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BOGACZYK: Typical D'Antoni Hoops: Mike Gives Dan an Assist

Dan and Mike D'Antoni
Sept. 6, 2014

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Mike D'Antoni won't have to tune in to CBS to watch big brother this winter.

He still wants to coach basketball. So, he did that Saturday afternoon in the Cam Henderson Center, where his retired No. 10 is painted high on the west wall.

At the Marshall Basketball Coaches Clinic on the floor where his older brother, Dan, will make his college coaching debut this coming season, the former - or, maybe in-limbo - NBA coach offered instruction to about 125 coaches and other interested hoops gadflies on the spread offense pick and roll.

For nine of his 12 seasons on an NBA sideline, D'Antoni had his brother as an assistant coach. And while both are former Thundering Herd star point guards, the one that got the Marshall job wasn't the one supposedly in the running for the vacancy.

So, did Mike lobby Herd Athletic Director Mike Hamrick on Dan's behalf during the coaching search that produced an outside-the-box hire of a different "favorite son" than perhaps was expected?

"I didn't really have to," D'Antoni said. "I just pointed out - after it was starting to be talked about - why it would be good. I didn't want to step in too much. I mean, that was Mike's decision and he made it. He knew what it was all about.


 

 

"I think when he came out to LA to just observe (Los Angeles Lakers' practices, meetings), with Dan's energy, and what he was doing with players and how he was coaching, that kind of convinced Mike."

D'Antoni, a co-chair with Chad Pennington for the Vision Campaign for Athletics, also was in town for the dedication of the indoor athletic facility and naming of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex. It was a shorter trip than it might have been from his last job in Los Angeles.

D'Antoni, 63, and his wife, Laurel, have a new home at the Greenbrier Sporting Club in White Sulphur Springs. The Mullens native is finally back in his home state after spending most of his post-Marshall life either in Italy becoming a legendary player and coach, or crisscrossing the nation with NBA teams.

Having resigned from the Lakers following the season, D'Antoni said he plans to spend plenty of time with family in the coming months, and also watching games in the Henderson Center this coming season.

"It's a great place if you love golf, and it's beautiful and there are a lot of places to eat," D'Antoni said of his new surroundings in Greenbrier County. "So, if you like the combination of those three, it's great place to be. For sure, I'm looking forward to it."

He still has a home in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

"Right now, it will be part of the time back-and-forth," he said. "We'll see how it goes, see if I'm off someplace coaching or see if I'm hanging out more here. We'll see what happens with that, but I guarantee you I'll see a lot of basketball games here this year."

Does he want another NBA coaching job?

"Well, it remains to be seen," D'Antoni said. "If it's the right situation ... you miss it. That's what we do, and if something great comes along my way, we'll do it."

D'Antoni said that after working as an assistant coach to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for gold medal-winning Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, "that ship has sailed ... I've done that and there are other people who are very qualified and ready to step in there. That was an unbelievable experience with some great guys, some great coaches."

As for Marshall, the 2004-05 NBA Coach of the Year was told there was at least one notion that the D'Antoni that got the job would have been more excited about it than a guy who has coached the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers.

"Well, you could say that," D'Antoni said, smiling, "but I think we both would have been excited to coach here. But I'm sure you can't be any more excited than what (Dan) is, so in that sense, yes.

"He's always dreamed of this and I think he's perfect for it and I think he'll go a great job. It might take a little while, but his energy is up and it will stay up and I'm looking forward to seeing some good Marshall basketball games."

Asked if there were any part of his older brother's coaching that might surprise Herd fans, D'Antoni said there might be one of a more personal nature.

"I don't know if he'll surprise them in a sense and I don't know what their expectations are," D'Antoni said. "But he's a great coach and I think the biggest strength is he'll develop players, they'll play hard and he'll do it the right way.

"Maybe his energy will surprise people, because at 67, he's got a lot of energy and he works harder than anybody I know, so in a sense that could surprise people. But hopefully the program will grow and just keep getting better."

Dan worked on Mike's staffs in Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles. The younger D'Antoni, who still holds the Herd career assist average record at 8.2 per game, answered quicker than his offense that has been labeled "Seven Seconds or Less."

"It's his ability to be able to teach kids," D'Antoni said. "He spent 30 years as a high school teacher and coach, and he's able to connect on different levels with different players and just improve their skills. And he did that on numerous occasions with different teams and different guys, and that's what helped us the most.

"We more or less think the same type of basketball - everybody has their own little nuances on how to do something - but I thought his ability to be able to teach something and make people better was unique."

D'Antoni said Herd fans shouldn't expect a shot in seven seconds ... although it could happen.

"That's too bad," he said of the label for the D'Antoni philosophy, "because it's not 7 seconds. It's quick ball movement, quick shots ... yeah, the first open shot. We're not trying to make it too complicated.

"It just got a name tag of 7 seconds. It could be 12 seconds, as long as the first shot comes, and it's open, and it's a good one, we usually take it. It will be an exciting type of basketball."

And while he misses the sideline, D'Antoni relishes the opportunity to spend more time in West Virginia with his brothers, Dan and Mark, his sister, Kathy, and especially with their 100-year-old father, Lewis D'Antoni - who attended the Herd coaches' clinic and sat on press row Saturday.

"It's special," Mike said. "No doubt about it, the chance to spend time with family and friends is great. I was out of the country for so many years, gone coaching, it's great to get back and connect. And I think every child would want to hang around parents as they get older, so it's been really good.'

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