Bryant says excited about new Lakers coach D'Antoni

Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:27pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Stunned though he was that Phil Jackson has not returned as Los Angeles Lakers head coach, All-Star guard Kobe Bryant said on Tuesday he was excited about the prospect of playing under new appointee Mike D'Antoni.

The Lakers shocked the basketball world on Monday when they named former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach D'Antoni to replace the fired Mike Brown while overlooking the heavily favored Jackson, an 11-time NBA championship winner.

"We were all thinking it was gonna be Phil," Bryant told reporters after taking part in a Lakers shoot-around. "It probably caught Mike a little bit off guard, too.

"But I'm excited. I spoke to Mike (on the phone) this morning. It was great. It was really short, just 'hello'."

While Bryant has deep affection for the ice-cool "Zen Master" Jackson after winning five NBA titles in Lakers colors with the veteran coach, he also holds D'Antoni in high esteem.

A 14-time All-Star, Bryant was a huge fan as a child of D'Antoni's basketball play in Italy, where he grew up, and later got to know him well when D'Antoni was an assistant coach on the U.S. national team.

"We have a great relationship," said Bryant. "The offense that he installed for our USA team was the offense that we ran to the tune of two (Olympic) gold medals.

"We all know the type of talent that we had on that team, so it was important for us to have an offense that was flexible, that was open and that kept everybody involved. It worked pretty well for us.

"I've obviously played against his teams for a number of years and I know his philosophy. I know how competitive he is. He's a feisty, feisty dude. Temperamental, even. I like that."   Continued...

 
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant reacts during their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson