Watching the Los Angeles Lakers do whatever the hell it is they did to land upon Mike DAntoni as their new head coach was a reminder that, no matter the generation, ancestor worship still has its place.
The roster is almost geologically old, a concerted reach back to a glorious series of pasts. The coaching search, centered as it was on Phil Jackson, was all about seeking the familiar rather than the truly innovative. Even the apparently outsized influence of Magic Johnson suggested a need to replow old ground rather than break new.
In short, your age doesnt make you old. Your choices make you old. And the Lakers are old on old.
But theres a bigger point to make here, and it is this. Phil Jackson would have been a reach backward to an older time that no longer exists, and the fact that he would have been hired had not his demands seemed excessive even to a team that wallows in excess like Los Angeles tells us that the team came very close to embracing another re-run.
And that so many observers and fans thought it was the most sensible course of action tells us that innovative thinking typically scares both young and old alike.
That Mike Brown would be fired was a fait accompli, though not because the Princeton offense was such a crime against humanity. He had been declared unfit by virtue of being unsupported by the ossified Laker think tank, and being fired after five games only says that Jim Buss et. al. didnt have the nerve to fire him in the offseason. This wasnt a chance to succeed, it was a demand to fail.
And it worked.
But this isnt a defense of Mike Brown either. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it, and he must have figured early on that he was working for ancestor worshipers.
Indeed, the only reason they didnt hire Jackson instead of Brown in the first place was because Jackson was the guy who Brown replaced. And this would have been his third tour with the same team.
You know who else got rehired that many times? George Halas and Billy Martin. Halas, because he was the owner of the Chicago Bears. Martin, because George Steinbrenner had a love-hate thing going with Martin he never escaped.
And if Jackson could have modified his demands, he would have been that guy too.
Now on its face, hiring DAntoni instead of Jackson suggests that the Lakers were actually making a break with their past, when in fact it was a fallback choice. They wanted to go back in time, desperately so, and that it made so much sense to so many people suggests that old thinking is not restricted to the old.
So, if youre asking what the alternative to Jacksons resume and DAntonis no-defense style would have been, the answer is too obvious. Brian Shaw. Former Laker coach, well steeped in the Laker way and the Laker personalities.
But once again, he was a name for bandying only. Now either he interviews poorly (which was a charge leveled at Tony Dungy before Tampa Bay finally saw his obvious merits), isnt really considered all that as a basketball mind (which seems unlikely to the point of absurdity), or he isnt considered splashy enough (which knowing the way owners think is a very real possibility).
Or maybe his first head coaching job will have to be with a team he owns.
In any event, he would have been innovative without being a stranger. He wouldnt have been Phil Jackson, the ultimate back to the future hire.
And the Lakers would still have been old. Really really old. Just not that old.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com