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The Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard (center) is defended by San Antonio's Tim Duncan (left) and Tiago Splitter during their game in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Spurs won, 84-82. The Lakers are 2-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who will hand the team over to Mike D'Antoni this week. [Photo/Agencies]
LA can't wait for new coach to arrive after narrow 84-82 loss to San Antonio
Phil Jackson has accused the Los Angeles Lakers of "slimy" negotiations in their search to fill the head coaching position left vacant by the firing of Mike Brown.
Jackson said he met the Lakers' brass for 1 1/2 hours at his home on Saturday and was then woken by a phone call at midnight on Sunday to tell him Mike D'Antoni had been given the job instead.
"It seemed slimy to be awoken with this kind of news," Jackson told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just weird."
On Monday, general manager Mitch Kupchak announced D'Antoni as the club's new coach on a reported three-year contract that includes a club option for a fourth.
"I wish it would have been a little bit cleaner," Jackson said. "It would have been much more circumspect and respectful of everybody that's involved."
The Lakers looked to continue their turnaround on Tuesday from an embarrassing start, but they dropped a close 84-82 decision to the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center.
The Lakers began the National Basketball Association season with three consecutive losses and had just one win in five games under Brown, who was sacked last Friday.
Tuesday's loss was the Lakers' first defeat under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff after winning their first two with the interim skipper.
Jackson, who has 11 NBA titles, was seen by some as the natural choice to replace Brown, and fans chanted his name at recent games.
The 67-year-old led the Lakers to five NBA titles over two previous stints as head coach.
But he had wanted more control over basketball operations than during his last stint with the team.
So the Lakers chose to go with the 61-year-old D'Antoni, who is recovering from knee replacement surgery and is expected to join the team later this week.
D'Antoni resigned as head coach of the New York Knicks in March, ending a four-year tenure there. "This team is built to win a championship this year or the next year," he said on Tuesday.
"Our current roster is great and that is what gets me excited about coaching. I am going to do everything I can to win a championship. If we are not in the serious hunt, then I have failed."
The transition should be made smoother because of D'Antoni's previous work with All-Star guards Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
Bryant worked with D'Antoni on the US Olympic team in London, and D'Antoni coached Nash for five seasons with the Phoenix Suns.
Bryant said he initially told management his top choice for coach was D'Antoni.
When Jackson came into the picture, Bryant said he backed him as well. But when it was evident they were not going to pick Jackson, Bryant said management knew he endorsed the pick of D'Antoni.
"I think we all thought it was going to be Phil," Bryant said earlier on Tuesday. "I said D'Antoni was my first choice because I didn't know Phil would be an option.
"They knew my two guys that I liked and one of them didn't work out obviously with Phil. They knew they had my approval to pull the trigger on the other one.
"It probably even caught Mike off guard. We have a great relationship. I am excited."
Nash was twice named the NBA's Most Valuable Player under D'Antoni. He is currently sidelined with a fractured left fibula.
"Mike is a very bright coach," Nash said. "He is going to do a lot of great things with this team. We will build something great here."
On Tuesday, interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff ran the team for the third straight game, but the final play went poorly when they couldn't get the ball to Bryant, who had 28 points and eight rebounds.
After Pau Gasol unsurprisingly missed just the 117th 3-point attempt of his 12-year NBA career, Tiago Splitter's hustle prevented the Lakers from controlling the rebound before the buzzer sounded.
"It felt good when I released it, (but) it wasn't designed to go that way," Gasol said.
"We're not discouraged by it in the situation we're in. We're looking forward to a new coach stepping in on Thursday and getting going. Hopefully I'll be closer to the basket next time."