Kobe Bryant, speaking publicly for the first time since Mike D'Antoni resigned from the Los Angeles Lakers, expressed apathy about the turn of events but also said he'd like to have an active role in choosing a new coach.
"Honestly, I didn't care," Bryant said Thursday during a guest appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," when asked whether he was happy D'Antoni accepted a buyout of close to $2 million instead of coming back to coach the team next season.
"Mike was dealt a really bad hand in dealing with all the injuries that he had here," Bryant said. "This is a tough place, man. If you're not winning, you're not going to survive, man."
Bryant added that Magic Johnson's controversial tweet in which he celebrated D'Antoni's departure reminded him of a scene out of "The Wizard of Oz."
"The first thing I thought of was seeing the munchkins on the Yellow Brick Road dancing and singing, 'The Wicked Witch is dead,'" Bryant said. "When he tweeted that, that song just came to mind."
Bryant hopes the Lakers will sing a different tune than they have in the past when it comes to consulting him about hiring a coach.
"On the last two they didn't," Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and D'Antoni, who both failed to endure the length of the initial contracts they signed with the Lakers before parting ways. "On the third one, I'm hoping they do."
Taking over for a legend like Phil Jackson is never easy, of course. Bryant said he still speaks to Jackson often and expects the 11-time champion coach to transfer those results to his front-office role with the New York Knicks.
"I think he'll do fantastic," Bryant said. "Especially the more people say that he won't be successful."
Bryant had similar faith in the Lakers' brass, endorsing the efforts by Jackson's fiancée and Lakers president Jeanie Buss, as well as her brother and Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, in steering the franchise in the right direction.
"Jimmy and Jeanie both, they're just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father's legacy and everything that he's accomplished," Bryant said. "And they're taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They're both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we'll make it happen."
Bryant did not identify any specific candidates he would like the Lakers to hire but said there is an "open-door policy" in place between him and Lakers management as the process plays out.
"We talk back and forth," Bryant said. "We'll text or I'll sit down with [them]."
But Bryant, who will turn 36 in August before embarking on his 19th NBA season in the fall, said he doesn't want the team to play favorites when it comes to picking its coach.
"Honestly, it's not really about whether the players like the coach or not," Bryant said. "It's really about getting results. Liking somebody and those results don't necessarily go hand-in-hand.
"Sometimes when a coach is driving you, you don't necessarily like it, but it's a part of the process, and then once you win, everybody is buddy-buddy after that."