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Stephen A. Smith gives harsh assessment of ‘lucky’ Mike D’Antoni

Which member of the Brooklyn Nets’ coaching staff will Stephen A. Smith attack next?

After slamming the hiring of first-time coach Steve Nash as “white privilege,” ESPN’s gasbag described new Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni as being unfit to be the head coach of a contender after making 10 playoff appearances in the role in his career.

D’Antoni’s four-year run in Houston ended with the Rockets’ third conference semifinal loss in that time. In 2018, D’Antoni led Houston to within one win of the NBA Finals — his third conference finals appearance — when his second-best player (Chris Paul) was forced to miss Game 7 against a Warriors team considered one of the greatest in NBA history.

“He’s right where he belongs,” Smith said. “He’s an assistant coach, particularly for Steve Nash. Now, if anybody should hire him as an assistant, it’s Steve Nash. They had great success together in Phoenix, they won 65 percent of their games, they went to a couple of conference championships even though they never made it to the finals and clearly, that was when Mike D’Antoni really made a name for himself revolutionizing the game of basketball on the offensive side of the ball because of what he was able to do with their offense.”

D’Antoni, who coached Nash with the Suns (2004-08) and Lakers (2012-14), was “lucky to get that job” with the Nets, according to Smith. D’Antoni, who went 227-102 in Houston, was unable to agree with the Rockets on a contract extension.

Mike D'Antoni
Mike D’Antoni and Stephen A. SmithEPA, Getty Images

“Because here’s the reality of the situation, you’ve been a head coach — Phoenix, New York, LA, Houston — never got to an NBA Finals,” Smith said. “Obviously, injuries and bad circumstances had a lot to with it. He got close, but never got there, right? And this man is a master of departing jobs right when he knows he’s gonna get fired.

“The bottom line is it was time for a new coach in Houston. Mike D’Antoni was led to believe there were a lot of opportunities out there for him. The reality is there are people who are more deserving of these opportunities if indeed you want to win a championship. Mike D’Antoni to me has proven that he can innovate. … His style of play can be very entertaining. There’s no question about that. And if that is what matters to you, that is a priority, Mike D’Antoni is your guy, whether it is as an assistant or as a head coach.

“If you are trying to win, meaning win the [championship], no, he ain’t the answer. … Mike D’Antoni, an assistant in Brooklyn is cool as long as he is not passing over other dudes that have been starving for an opportunity …”

Last month, Smith criticized the Nash hiring.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there is no way around this. This is white privilege. This does not happen for a black man,” Smith said. “No experience whatsoever? On any level as a coach? And you get the Brooklyn Nets job?”

Derek Fisher, Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson were all were named head coaches in the NBA without any previous coaching experience.

“My point about white privilege, tell me the black man that would happen for? No resume whatsoever as a coach, at all. And you get a job of this magnitude,” Smith said the following day. “I’m not talking about Derek Fisher, with the sorry New York Knicks at the time. I’m not talking about Jason Kidd, his first era when they were building the Brooklyn Nets squad, I’m not talking about Doc Rivers in Orlando. I’m not talking about those opportunities.

“I’m talking about championship ready, and it would be a shock if you don’t win 50 games and you’re not contending for a crown. Black folks with no resume getting a job like that? I have been covering the NBA for 25 years … brothers do not get those opportunities.”

After being hired, Nash owned his situation but felt the notion of white privilege specifically didn’t apply in this case but admitted it’s a problem he wants to help remedy.

“Well, I did skip the line, frankly,” Nash said. “But at the same time, leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique.”

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