Ranking top 10 NBA coaches: Where Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni lands
3. Mike D’Antoni-Houston Rockets
Mike D’Antoni has gone 173-73 in his three years with the Houston Rockets, which is good for a 70 percent win percentage and is only second behind the Golden State Warriors over that timespan. The Rockets have also never won less than 53 games under MDA’s watch as the head coach, and have fallen to the hands of the dominant Golden State Warriors in two of the last three years. During D’Antoni’s first season in Houston, he made the decision to move superstar James Harden to point guard, which many believed wouldn’t work due to Harden’s “ball hog tendencies.” For starters, that’s an inaccurate statement, as Harden has averaged 7.5 assists as a member of the Rockets.
Nonetheless, Harden averaged 11 assists per game during D’Antoni’s first season, which was good for first in the league. The Houston Rockets weren’t expected to be contenders that year, as they had just lost Dwight Howard and brought in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, but the Rockets made it to the Western Conference Semifinals that year and exceeded expectations. The Rockets success during D’Antoni’s first season with the team won him the Coach of the Year award during the 2016-2017 season.
MDA’s next biggest challenge came following Houston’s acquisition of guard Chris Paul, as Harden had to move back to the shooting guard position, and hasn’t been known to play well off the ball. The Rockets faced questions of how CP3 would fit, as both he and Harden had been two of the most ball dominant guards in the NBA up until that point. The result was a franchise record 65 wins, a first seed in the Western Conference and an appearance in the Western Conference Finals against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, all in the first year. The Rockets were a CP3 injury away from winning a championship during that season.
The following year, the Houston Rockets started out 11-14 yet finished the year by winning 42 of their last 57 games, good for the fourth seed in the West. The fact that MDA was able to guide the Rockets from the bottom of the West to the top four in the West was brilliant, especially considering the injuries to CP3, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela. Harden had alot to do with this, as this marked the creation of his “unguardable tour” in which he scored 30 points for 32 consecutive games, which is the second most consecutive 30-plus games in NBA history.
D’Antoni now faces yet another challenge with the addition of Russell Westbrook, as he will have to put together a system in which Westbrook is able to thrive. This will be the third time in four years in which D’Antoni will have had to tweak his offense. The other two times proved to be successful, so I see no reason to think the same won’t happen this time.
The Houston Rockets have never finished lower than the fourth seed in the crowded Western Conference since D’Antoni’s arrival, which is also why he’s so high on this list.