Houston Rockets: Will Mike D’Antoni be a Coach of the Year finalist?

Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coming off a year in which he wasn’t viewed as one of the ten best coaches in the league, will he be a finalist for the Coach of the Year award this year?

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has had a career resurgence in Houston, as he’s posted a 70 percent win ratio, going 173-73.  In each of the last two years, the Houston Rockets have suffered season-ending defeats only to the hands of the “superteam” Golden State Warriors in the post-season.

But despite the stellar coaching D’Antoni has provided the Rockets, he wasn’t one of the ten finalists in voting for the Coach of the Year award last season. Let that sink in for a bit.

The Rockets were sitting second in the Western Conference heading into their last game against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, yet D’Antoni wasn’t even viewed as one of the ten best coaches in the league. The irony is that the team finished fourth in the loaded Western Conference yet the media identified ten better coaches than D’Antoni.

It’s no worse than in 2018, when the Rockets went 65-17, posting the best record in the league and the most wins in team history yet D’Antoni finished fifth in the Coach of the Year voting results. Interestingly enough, he did win the award in 2017, when the Rockets went 55-27 and finished third in the Western Conference.

There’s a little bit of inconsistency there, as D’Antoni won the award when the team had a worse record than the following year, which he finished fifth in the voting. Also, the year he won the award, the Rockets only won two more games than last year, when he wasn’t even a finalist altogether.

The big question is if MDA will be a finalist at all this season. With the addition of Russell Westbrook, D’Antoni will have to modify the offense in order to be successful this season. In addition, they’ve parted ways with defensive coordinator Jeff Bzdelik in place of former Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner. If the Rockets are able to improve upon a year in which they ranked 17th in defensive rating last year and are able to finish first in the West as predicted, it will be hard for D’Antoni to not be a finalist. Even more, if this happens, MDA should win the award.

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But then again, he should have also won it in 2018 and that didn’t happen either. With owner Tilman Fertitta offering a strong endorsement of D’Antoni in addition to MDA entering the final year of his contract, I’d expect another great year from him.