Mike D’Antoni says the burst of Jeremy Lin into stardom was the greatest time of his coaching career, recalls the game against Kobe Bryant.
Although Mike D’Antoni never won an NBA championship, he’s one of the most celebrated coaches in the NBA. The players’ favorite coach got his first head coaching job in the NBA back in 1998 after being an assistant coach of the Denver Nuggets for a year.
It’s been 24 years and the man still doesn’t have a single bone of ego in his body. He has been the coach of the teams that starred the likes of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard. After being the HC of the James Harden-led Rockets for 4-years leading them to deep Playoff runs in all and very close to a Championship in one, he is now an assistant coach with Brooklyn Nets under Steve Nash.
The humble man still ranks Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity” moment as the top highlight of his career. D’Antoni was the Knicks’ coach when Lin ascended to stardom out of nowhere during the 2011-12 season. Playing initially on a 10-day contract, he caught fire starting February 4th, averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists in 11 games.
“The greatest 10 days, two weeks, a month, whatever it was. Greatest time ever,” D’Antoni said on his recent appearance on JJ Redick’s The Old Man and The Three podcast.
Mike D’Antonie recalls Jeremy Lin thinking of trashing talk to Kobe Bryant
Ten years ago the 70-year-old was in power to decide whether the world would ever witness Linsanity or not, almost decided against it. But thanks to Knicks’ assistant coach at the time, Kenny Atkinson, we did see it happen.
Talking about how he didn’t see potential in Lin and was about to let his 10-day contract expire even when the point guard in a hilarious fashion came up to him a couple of days before to ask if he should bring his car from the West Coast to the East Coast to which Mile almost said no. He remembers it all like it was yesterday. Listen to it here.
Amidst that run, Lin and Co faced Bryant’s Lakers at the MSG and everyone thought that The Mamba will bring the Taiwanese sensation back to the ground within a week of his ascendance. Kobe even stirred up the battle days before the game by asking who Lin was.
The point guard also thought of igniting the battle when he said that he would respond to Kobe after the game by saying, “Well, I guess Kobe knows who’s my name is now.” That would have been awkward and wrong in so many ways. Good thing he didn’t do it.
Lin did light up MSG as well the Lakers scoring 38-points, 7-rebounds, 4-assists, and 2-steals but as D’Antonie remembers, the man “punted” on his words because of the respect he had for the 5x champion and legend of the game.