How can the Houston Rockets win the 2019-2020 NBA Championship? The key to victory is Mike D’Antoni and his ability to grow as a coach.
The life of a coach is not glamorous. Often, it involves receiving heavy criticism and little to no acclaim. Not to mention the long hours spent watching game film, game planning, and instructing the players. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has dedicated the majority of his life to the game of basketball. Throughout his coaching career, he has coached numerous All-Stars as well as current and future Hall of Fame players. He received the NBA’s Coach of the Year award twice for his coaching prowess and is also credited with developing one of the most effective offensive systems in league history.
Despite all of his achievements, there is still a dark cloud that hangs over his head: thus far in his career, he has been unable to lead a team to the championship. In fact, a D’Antoni led team has never made it past the conference finals.
Many critics believe that he has not achieved this goal because of his inability to make in-game adjustments. The most recent example of this could be seen when the Rockets faced the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Clint Capela struggled greatly throughout the series. Instead of sitting Capela for a player such as Kenneth Faried, he allowed him to continue playing, and his struggles persisted. The result was another disappointing exit from the playoffs for the Rockets. Although this was not the only reason that the Rockets failed to advance to the next round, it was one of the most glaring.
A common misconception about coaching is that coaches have all the answers. The reality is that no one knows all there is to know about the game they coach. Coaches, at least the good ones, are constantly learning and growing as the game changes. What worked last season or even last night may not work today. A coach must be able to make modifications to their game plan on short notice. This is what separates the good coaches from the great coaches.
The space between good and great is where Mike D’Antoni finds himself. He has accomplished so many things that have placed him on the precipice of being one of the all-time great coaches. The only obstacle in his path is an NBA championship victory. To reach this goal, Mike D’Antoni must take a long hard look at himself. He needs to find something within his being that will allow him to reach professional basketball’s mountaintop.
This year is poised to be one of the most challenging of Mike D’Antoni’s career. He is now being tasked with finding a way to merge the playing styles of former league MVP’s James Harden and Russell Westbrook. It will take a truly herculean effort to pull it off. D’Antoni must enter this season with the same willingness to learn and grow that he surely demands of his players. If he can rise to the occasion the league may be witness to a basketball force like no one has ever seen.