Kobe Bryant to Have an Active Role In Choosing New Lakers Coach

Kobe Bryant, pictured during a game in Arizona on January 15, 2014, will miss the NBA all-star game after the Lakers say he is still suffering from pain and swelling in his knee (Getty/AFP/File, Christian Petersen)
Kobe Bryant, pictured during a game in Arizona on January 15, 2014, will miss the NBA all-star game after the Lakers say he is still suffering from pain and swelling in his knee (Getty/AFP/File, Christian Petersen)

Kobe Bryant, speaking publicly for the first time since Mike D’Antoni resigned from the Los Angeles Lakers, expressed apathy about the turn of events while saying he would, though, like to have an active role in choosing a new coach.

“Honestly I didn’t care,” Bryant said Thursday during a guest appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” when asked by Kimmel if he was “happy” that D’Antoni accepted a buyout of close to $2 million for next season rather than come back to coach the team.

“Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here,” Bryant said. “This is a tough place, man. If you’re not winning, you’re not going to survive, man.”

Bryant added that Magic Johnson’s controversial tweet in which he celebrated D’Antoni’s departure reminded him of a scene out of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“The first thing I thought of was seeing the Munchkins on the Yellow Brick Road dancing and singing, ‘The Wicked Witch is dead,’ ” Bryant said. “When he tweeted that, that song just came to mind.”

Bryant hopes the Lakers will sing a different tune than they have in the past when it comes to consulting him about hiring their next coach.

“On the last two they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and D’Antoni, who both failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”

Taking over for a legend like Phil Jackson is never easy, of course. Bryant said he still speaks to Jackson “often” and expects the 11-time championship winning coach to transfer those results to his front-office role with the New York Knicks.

“I think he’ll do fantastic,” Bryant said. “Especially the more people say that he won’t be successful.”

Bryant had similar faith in the Lakers’ brass, endorsing the efforts by Jackson’s fiancée and Lakers president, Jeanie Buss, as well as her brother and Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, in steering the franchise in the right direction.

“Jimmy and Jeanie both, they’re just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father’s legacy and everything that he’s accomplished,” Bryant said. “And they’re taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They’re both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we’ll make it happen.”

Bryant did not identify any specific candidates he would like the Lakers to hire but said there is an “open-door policy” in place between him and Lakers management as the process plays out.

“We talk back and forth,” Bryant said. “We’ll text or I’ll sit down with him.”

But Bryant, who will turn 36 in August before embarking on his 19th NBA season in the fall, said that he doesn’t want the team to play favorites when it comes to picking its coach.

“Honestly it’s not really about whether the players like the coach or not,” Bryant said. “It’s really about getting results. Liking somebody and those results don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

“Sometimes when a coach is driving you, you don’t necessarily like it, but it’s a part of the process and then once you win, everybody is buddy-buddy after that.”

Drive has rarely if ever been an issue for Bryant, who started a six-month intensive training program to ready himself for 2014-15 shortly after the Lakers’ disastrous season ended in April, and is already bullish on his well-being.

“From a health standpoint, 100 percent,” Bryant said of where he currently stands after missing 76 games last season because of a fractured knee and torn Achilles in his left leg. “I started doing a lot of on-court training and so I’m back into my routine. Then I’ll start lifting and start doing the running, which I hate. By the time the season comes around, I’ll be ready to go.”

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Dave McMenamin

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