Former Houston Rockets forward Corey Brewer believes the Rockets have themselves to blame for Mike D’Antoni no longer being at the helm as the head coach.
The Houston Rockets‘ 2019-20 season was prematurely ended last Saturday, as the Rockets were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers during the Western Conference Semifinals. The Rockets stole the first game of the series but lost the next four games, as the Lakers advanced to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
The Rockets got news the following morning on the flight back from Orlando to Houston that lame duck coach Mike D’Antoni would be parting ways with the franchise, as both sides weren’t able to come to terms on an extension. There was word that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was upset upon finding out the news that D’Antoni would be pursuing free agency, as the two had reportedly met following the Rockets’ Game 5 loss.
As Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported, D’Antoni was expecting a call from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, which never happened. But could all of this have been prevented? Former Rockets forward Corey Brewer believes so, and he explained his rationale on SportsTalk 790’s The A-Team.
Brewer says Houston Rockets bear blame for D’Antoni’s exit
“In my mind, they should’ve locked up Mike before the season started and they wouldn’t even have this situation. Because I think Mike is a great coach for this situation and I think he did a great job.
He had some bad luck with Chris Paul and the hamstring two years ago and Russell Westbrook wasn’t really healthy at the beginning of the playoffs, so he had some bad luck. I think if they would’ve locked him up he would have been a great fit, but now it’s back to the drawing board and it’s up to Daryl.”
The Rockets brass engaged in contract negotiations with D’Antoni and his representation at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, but the sides weren’t able to terms on an extension, as the Rockets were offering D’Antoni a short-term extension worth up to $2.5 million annually. The two sides didn’t resume negotiations during the season, but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke highly about D’Antoni on numerous occasions throughout the season, referring to him as a “wizard” and a “hell of a coach” during the NBA’s stoppage.
Brewer makes a good point in that if the Rockets really wanted D’Antoni, the wise move would have simply been to have taken care of the contract heading into the season, as opposed to lowballing him and his agent. Now the Rockets will be tasked with identifying a replacement, and Fertitta recently stated that he’ll be giving Morey the power and decision-making authority to hire the candidate of his liking.
The Rockets have been linked to Jeff Van Gundy, Tyronn Lue, and Sam Cassell, but they haven’t begun doing interviews. The Rockets may be pressured to move swiftly, as there are multiple openings around the league, which could force their hand.
As for D’Antoni, he’s been linked to the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers vacancies, and he’s certain to land a prime job based on his success with the Rockets. But if the Rockets had played their hand correctly, they could’ve had D’Antoni for the near future, at least according to Brewer.