Mike D'Antoni has long history with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant

One of the features of hiring Phil Jackson as the new head coach of the L.A. Lakers would have been that he has a long history with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and an intimate familiarity with their games. By instead hiring Mike D'Antoni, as the Lakers reportedly did late Sunday, the team still gets that dose of familiarity, albeit in a different way.

D'Antoni, of course, coached Steve Nash with the Phoenix Suns for four seasons. Nash won his two MVP awards in that spell. For a time, the coach and player were impossible to separate in discussions of the offense D'Antoni ran. That didn't necessarily change during D'Antoni's tenure at the helm of the New York Knicks.

D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant also go way back -- Kobe spent part of his youth in Italy idolizing D'Antoni's playing style. D'Antoni, after a brief NBA career, starred in the Italian league. Kobe's dad Jellybean Bryant did the same. Kobe has long shared his respect with D'Antoni with anyone who will listen, despite the battles they had in the Suns' heyday.

D'Antoni has also been an assistant coach for Team USA basketball since 2006. There, he has coached Bryant and Dwight Howard.

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