The Houston Rockets made some headlines the other night when it was announced that their head coach was in talks for a contract extension. Should the team look to keep MDA around?
The Houston Rockets and head coach Mike D’Antoni have enjoyed three 50+ win seasons together since he joined the team for the 2016-17 season. While he has helped bring out the best in superstar and MVP James Harden, Houston also hasn’t been able to quite get over the Golden State hump in the postseason.
The Rockets changed their offense when MDA joined the team, putting James Harden at point guard. His assist numbers instantly went up and Houston drastically outperformed their preseason predictions, finishing with the No. 3 seed and eventually losing to the 2-seeded Spurs. The season as a whole earned D’Antoni Coach of the Year honors and firmed up the franchise’s controversial decision to hire him.
Last season, the Rockets went up to another level after the acquisition of Chris Paul. The team won a franchise-record 60 games and MDA arguably could have been in the discussion for Coach of the Year once again. The way he managed to split the time on the floor between Paul and Harden was masterful. In the playoffs, Houston nearly upset the Golden State Warriors, falling in seven games.
This season, the Houston Rockets took a step back. They started off slowly, and Carmelo Anthony never fit in well with the team, leading to him being separated from the Rockets within 10 games. They eventually found their footing, though, and finished No. 4 in the West. They fell to the Warriors in the second round in six games, and MDA’s coaching style and rotations were questioned quite a bit.
So should the team look to extend him? Let’s look at the pros and cons of keeping around Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni is a coach that the Rockets are familiar with and that the players like. He is a respected voice on the team and has shown the ability to help bring wins to the franchise.
He has shown the ability to adjust when necessary. Traditionally a run-and-gun coach in his Phoenix days and his first year in Houston, he was able to adjust and turn the Rockets into a slow team when Chris Paul joined. The isolation/slow offense is what makes the team so great. Now, they might need to continue to adjust if they want to hit that next level.
This one sounds bad, but there aren’t really many more coaches available that will provide an impact like MDA. The best option may be to look for a defensive-minded coach to replace Jeff Bzdelik, who was let go.
There are some common complains about D’Antoni that I’ve seen through fans and analysts. The main one is his inability to call timely timeouts in the midst of a run by the opposition. This is something that MDA opposes, as he thinks it doesn’t really have an effect on the game. It really seems like runs by the opponent last way too long, though.
Come playoff time, he can really run some weird rotations out there. Gerald Green, who was bad most of the Warriors series, was getting minutes in the fourth quarter of the deciding loss. Players randomly gain or lose his trust in the system. His rotations are a regularly-used complaint against MDA.
Honestly, I don’t see an issue with the Rockets taking a chance and signing D’Antoni to an extension. Coaching extensions hardly mean much, so if the team is performing below expectations, he can still be fired (see Kevin McHale).
If the Rockets are great next year, though, and MDA is coaching well, it would prove to be a great move. The next thing to do is find him a defensive coordinator.