Mike D'Antoni has never won (or even coached for) an NBA title, but he just beat Phil Jackson for a pretty big prize.
D'Antoni's back in the NBA a little more than seven months after he and the Knicks parted ways after a demoralizing losing streak. And he's back in a major way, coaching a Lakers team with huge stars and huge expectations after he failed to make good on that combination in New York.
You don't hear much about New York when people are talking about D'Antoni on Monday. You hear a lot about Phoenix, which makes sense given Steve Nash's presence, and the U.S. Olympic team, which shores up Kobe, but not so much about the last four years.
The record for those years, in case you've forgotten, was 121-167 and 0-4 in the one and only trip to the playoffs. There's already been volumes written about those years and who deserves blame for what, but the record is what the record is and D'Antoni could never make it work with the one guy he had to have on his side.
Maybe Carmelo Anthony's acquisition broke up the foundation of a team that would have gone on to do big things. For all that's happened over the past 20-plus months (seriously, Anthony hasn't even been a Knick for two years yet), it's hard to buy that the Knicks are a better team today for holding onto Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Wilson Chandler.
If D'Antoni had gotten the Anthony we've seen in the first four games, who knows what the Knicks would have been able to do over the last two seasons. The two men reportedly reached detente in London, while Anthony was having a summer experience which may have helped trigger the desire to play the more well-rounded game Melo's displayed this season.
That peace won't stop December 13th from being a very good day to pick up a copy of the tabloids. That's when the Lakers will visit the Garden for a primetime game that's going to be all about the coach trying to tame the player that he could never figure out how to reach while they were in New York together.
D'Antoni will probably chuckle when he sees Ray Felton running sharp pick-and-rolls and whipping the ball to open shooters in the corner, just as he did before the Knicks traded him in the first place. He might wonder what could have been if he had Ronnie Brewer instead of Toney Douglas and he'll definitely have some private thoughts about Anthony's reformation that won't be part of the obligatory conciliatory press conferences.
There are plenty of things to look forward to about D'Antoni coaching the Lakers. Two games against a Knicks team that neither looks nor plays like the one D'Antoni left won't rank that high on the national scale.
Hard to imagine anything ranking higher in the local rankings, though.