Report: Rockets’ D’Antoni expected call from Fertitta that never came

Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Several factors went into why Mike D’Antoni left the Houston Rockets, including a reportedly rocky relationship with the team’s owner.

On the surface, the breakup between the Houston Rockets and Mike D’Antoni was clean and amicable when he informed the team he’ll be moving on. A detailed post in The Athletic by Kelly Iko and Sam Amick, however, detailed several anecdotes that may have contributed to his departure.

As my fellow site expert, Anthony Duckett, shared recently, D’Antoni informed the organization of his intentions to move on into free agency shortly before the team’s plane was landing on Sunday afternoon. “Morey was upset, sources say, but understood and respected D’Antoni’s decision,” said Iko and Amick.

The piece from The Athletic then includes several factors that seemed to lead up to a less-than-perfect between D’Antoni and Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta. One example listed was Fertitta’s infamous rant after Houston fell to the Warriors last season. “The messiness of Fertitta’s message rubbed D’Antoni the wrong way,” said the article.

A May 2019 interview with the Houston Chronicle in particular also “left quite a mark,” according to Iko and Amick. In the interview, Fertitta shared details of the team’s offer that D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, later said wasn’t accurate. “There were hard feelings born out of that time that played a part until the end,” the article said.

Mike D’Antoni’s uncertainty after Game 5

The Athletic broke the news shortly after Game 5 that D’Antoni still hadn’t ruled out returning to the Houston Rockets. As their latest piece details, though, there was an expectation of a phone call from ownership to discuss potentially returning that never came.

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“Sources say D’Antoni and Daryl Morey met for a late dinner Saturday [after Game 5], and conversed before returning to their rooms.” Reportedly, before that night ended, D’Antoni had spoken to the players and management about the season but never heard from Tilman Fertitta.

In the end, both Mike D’Antoni and Tilman Fertitta shared positive, heartfelt messages on social media shortly after the news broke of Mike’s departure.

Mike and Laurel D’Antoni statement to ESPN on departure from Rockets

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 13, 2020

A statement from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) September 13, 2020

Nevertheless, no matter what might have led to the breakup of D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets, the timing was right. The current makeup of the team may be built for someone of his abilities, but it’s become apparent that roster isn’t enough to get it done in the playoffs.

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With a new coach should come new roster moves, new strategies, and a new perspective on basketball that can be sustainable against the best of the best in the postseason.