Silverscreen vs. Hardwood: Mike D’Antoni as Peter Bogdanovich

29 Jan

I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but the land of Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, isn’t just for films. People in the quaint port metropolis have hobbies outside of the movie industry and movie theaters, and one of the humblest of their hobbies is sport. While the city that is responsible for the biggest and the most mainstream movies, hasn’t embraced the most mainstream sport, and instead turn their loving gaze toward an unassertive sport much more fitting of the city’s collective psyche, a little sport developed by a poor Canadian inspired by his new home south of the border in Springfield, Mass. Yes, I am, of course, speaking of the sport of Kings and Airnesses, basketsballs.

The town of Los Angeles is known for producing many classic films set on lakes, On Golden Pond and The Lake House, to name a few, so it is no surprise that their professional basketball team is called the Lakers. And while this team has history as rich as their Oscar gold and royal mauve uniforms would suggest, it seems tinseltown’s favorite fly boys have hit some shaky skies. Their team full of superstar athletes/aspiring actors, directors and producers are stumbling, and to put it in cinematic terms are dangerously close to relying on foreign subsidiaries to recoup their extravagant on-location shooting budget. The excuses and finger-pointing are mounting faster than backstage of a theater production employing Jeremy Previn. One of the most common culprits is the new coach, Mike D’Antoni, who, as far as I have found, isn’t related to Michelangelo Antonioni. Related or not, he caught my eye, and looking over is coachography I’ve realized that he bears a striking resemblance to the always cravat-ed Peter Bogdanovich’s filmography. What better way to indulge myself than to compare the peaks and lows of these two current LA residents.

Both men began cutting their teeth on lesser known projects; P-Bog began with Targets in 1968, while D’Antoni started with lockout-shortened 1998-99 Nuggets featuring an up-and-coming duo sure to have countless aloysius-oops-a-daisies for years to come, Nick Van Exel and Antonio McDyess. Well, D’Antoni was fired after the season with 14-36 record and Targets, about an assassin, was released after the shootings of MLK and Bobby Kennedy. But, like so many of the noble heroes that currently live in the LA city limits, these boys didn’t let a little thing like failure get in their way. P-Bog went on to have an amazing run of must-see films, The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon. Each one a classic in its own right. D’Antoni was also hitting his stride with the Phoenix Suns. A team that many credit as the one that forever changed the pace and positions of the professional game (citation: me).  The team went to back-to-back Western Conference finals and if it wasn’t for hip-check-turn-flop on the two-time MVP, Stephen Nash, the Suns might have been NBA Champions. Both men, then went on a little slide; D’Antoni got a little fed up with coaching Phoenix, as one is wont to do after coaching former Fu-Schnicken, Shaquille O’Neal, and moved his clipboard to the Big Apple to keep the seat warm while they waited for their lord and savior, LeBron James. Bogdanovich got a little full of himself, donned the cravat and decided it was best to direct all of his anachronistic films on horse back.

Lebron James didn’t come to the New York Loose-Fitting Pants, and audiences didn’t really care to see P-Bog’s run of old timey homage films. Once again, don’t count these guys out. The Knicks signed Amar’e Stoudemire and an overweight point guard and put together a nice little run at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, which is similar to Bogdanovich’s comeback film the Eric Stolz-Cher vehicle Mask. Neither the Knicks or the Mask were great, but compared to the recent stains on their resumés, they both looked closer to the magic gold these gold magic makers used to mine. Right as D’Antoni was in the middle of his revival act, the most selfish man in hightops decided it was time to do something for his damn self, and forced the defenseless mid-market Nuggets to trade him to the Tribeca Bobby DeNiros or whatever basketsball team was closest to that media hub. D’Antoni’s team was now heaped in trade speculation, and fun-pass-first plays don’t work when players have to prove night in and night out they shouldn’t be sent to live in Denver. The team faltered and even when the selfish candy bar arrived in NYC, he and Amar’e couldn’t turn the show around. In the same way, all the Oscar baiting of Mask did nothing more and garner a best make-up award and get Eric Stolz fired from Back to the Future (citation: me).

Both of these men were successful, and then they weren’t, but coaching basketball and directing pictures are not one man shows. Both need a team or a crew to make the old saying “A director/coach is only as good as his cast & crew/players,” and on first glance it looks like both of these men had their talented collaborators. P-Bog had Ryan O’Neal and D’Antoni had Steph Nash. Nash won two MVP awards and changed the whole way teams look at point guards, and Ryan O’Neal . . . well, he was on The Larry Sanders Show and his daughter won an Oscar, guess that’s about it. So, I guess Ryan O’Neal wasn’t really what you would call a traditionally talented collaborator. It’s more likely that Peter Bogdanovich’s real collaborator was his wife Polly Platt who was his Production Designer until he decided he’d rather sleep with CoverGirl nymph Cybill Shepherd than continuing to make quality films. But maybe that means that Nash wasn’t D’Antoni’s wingman either. They sure are struggling now they’ve been reunited. Let’s go to the ______-ographies: Platt was Production designer for all three of Bogdanovich’s best films The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, and Ryan O’Neal was only in two of those films, and neither of them had anything to do with Mask. So, Platt checks out. Nash was with D’Antoni for his whole run in Phoenix and is now bombing in with him in LA. Hmmm, maybe it was never Nash that was D’Antoni’s opus, but instead the other guy in Phoenix, Amar’e Stoudemire. If that’s the case, D’Antoni is Bogdanovich, Nash is Ryan O’Neal and Amar’e is Polly Platt.

I’ll mark it as fact, in my book

-C. Charles


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