It’s not often a university’s search for a new basketball coach extends to the Los Angeles Lakers, but there does seem to be some celestial alignment that could bring Mike D’Antoni to Marshall.
Here are the signs that point D’Antoni back to his alma mater:
—Marshall hasn’t hired anyone yet, even though athletics director Mike Hamrick fired Tom Herrion over a month ago. The season’s been over for most coaches for several weeks. That suggests Marshall is waiting for someone. The Lakers regular season ends tomorrow night and they will not make the playoffs.
—D’Antoni may be job hunting soon. After going 65-86 over the better part of two seasons—he took over in November 2012 after the Lakers fired Mike Brown—there’s lots of speculation that the Lakers and D’Antoni will part company. The latest report came from Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, who says the Lakers are looking for a “peaceful, mutual” parting of ways. D’Antoni still has one year left on his contract that pays him $4 million annually.
—D’Antoni has maintained close ties with his alma mater. He and former quarterback Chad Pennington are co-chairs of the University’s Vision campaign that has raised millions of dollars for athletic facilities. Hamrick has made sure that the University acknowledges D’Antoni’s strong connections to Marshall, including retiring the No. 10 he wore when he was a standout guard for the Herd in the early 1970s.
—His West Virginia roots run deep. Dantoni’s 100-year-old father Lewis still lives in Mullens where he coached basketball for many years and where Mike grew up. D’Antoni has a sister and brother who still live in the state.
—The Justice Factor. Greenbrier Resort owner and Marshall grad Jim Justice is reportedly a big supporter of D’Antoini’s return, and Justice is a major benefactor of the University.
Of course, maybe some of this is wishful thinking on Marshall’s part. They badly need a marquee hire, a coach who brings with him instant credibility. He’s someone Marshall fans can rally around, shaking off the apathy that has settled in with the fan base.
No, D’Antoni has never coached at the college level, where recruiting is perhaps more important than the X’s and O’s, but his basketball IQ is well established. He played and coached in the Italian league for 20 years, coaching his team to five titles. D’Antoni served as head coach of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns (where he was coach of the year in 2005), the New York Knicks and now the Lakers.
Can you really go from Hollywood to the Henderson Center? Normally no, but if Hollywood turns you out, the lure of friends, family and home can be inviting.