Coach D’Antoni wins Western Conference Coach of the Month for December
Sports can often be a metaphor for life. In life, not all relationships are going to bring out the best in both parties. In fact, the struggle of trying to make something work, when it’s clear that the attempts are in vain, will hinder your growth. At times, our own stubbornness refuses to acknowledge the inevitable. The inevitable being that, despite your best efforts, it just was not meant to be. The same can be said for Coach D’Antoni and the teams he has been involved in through out his career.
Mike D’Antoni is a former coach of the year, but after failed stints with the Knicks and Lakers, many thought he was done. And for good reason. Because although he found some success with New York, as a whole, the team under performed.
When D’Antoni resigned from the Knicks in 2012, it took the organization by surprise. Especially, since a few of the players had gone to the Knicks just to be coached by him. But, after finishing in the top 10 in scoring during his first three seasons, he felt as though his impact on the team had been lost. Linsanity was born during D’Antoni’s run, but Melo was shooting a career low. The pick and roll offense and fluid ball movement from his Phoenix days was gone. What replaced it was isolation plays and clear outs, almost the exact opposite of the successful system he had been running for years.
After D’Antoni stepped down, Mike Woodson was promoted to interim head coach. This move had minimal impact on the rest of the season or the Knicks as a whole. Sadly, the Knicks are still a work in progress with a carousel of coaches and limited success. Further proof that this failure was on the team and not the man.
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If Coach D’Antoni thought the gig in New York gig was hard fought, he hadn’t seen anything yet. There was a fiasco brewing in LA and this was prior to him being named the Lakers head coach.
Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash were the “super team” that never was. Injuries and egos had the team beat before the season even started. According to Coach D’Antoni, LA was a hostile environment and filled with players who never bought into his system.
In 2014, D’Antoni left LA amid inner turmoil and just like the Knicks, the Lakers are still struggling to find their identity. With that being said, it’s obvious that being a coach in professional sports is a thankless job. They are usually the first fired and the first to blame for the players ineptitude. These struggles had D’Antoni thinking his coaching career was over. Until Houston came calling.
The Houston Rockets went 15-2 in December and tied for most wins in franchise history for a single month. The offense and James Harden seemed to be made for each other and this is done in the face of “fans” who ridiculed the hiring of D’Antoni. Yet, here we are with a record of 29-9 and Coach D’Antoni winning Coach of the Month for December.
That’s the thing about relationships, the wrong ones prepare you for what is to come and offer you a different perspective. Maybe Coach D’Antoni needed to struggle in New York and LA to better understand player egos? Or, maybe Harden needed Kevin McHale and J.B. Bickerstaff to fully appreciate his relationship with Mike D’Antoni? Whatever lessons needed to be learned in their time apart, I am grateful this team and this offense have found each other when they did. Now, these Rockets can continue to grow and build on something amazing.