Report: Rockets seeking Mike D’Antoni clone in coaching search

Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets complains to referee Josh Tivens #58 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Houston Rockets complains to referee Josh Tivens #58 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With the Houston Rockets in need of a head coach, they’re reportedly seeking similarities of Mike D’Antoni, who was the coach for the previous four seasons.

The Houston Rockets‘ offseason got started with an unexpected turn of events, as Mike D’Antoni abruptly decided he wasn’t interested in coaching the team anymore. D’Antoni and the Rockets had been at an impasse from a contractual standpoint, and the negotiations got ugly last summer.

The Rockets offered D’Antoni a short-term extension that was essentially a band-aid, which the then 68-year-old coach surely wasn’t interested in. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta stated that D’Antoni was doing him a favor at the time, which certainly didn’t sit well with D’Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie.

But as it turns out, the Rockets wanted D’Antoni back for the 2020-21 season, as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was reportedly displeased with D’Antoni’s decision to break off contract negotiations. This should come as no surprise, as Morey spoke highly about D’Antoni of late, referring to him as a “genius” and a “hell of a coach.”

The Rockets’ admiration and appreciation for D’Antoni is expected to play a part in their coaching search for his replacement, as stated by Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen was on Texas Sports Nation on Sunday night and provided details on the Rockets’ coaching search and how their experience with D’Antoni has them seeking a clone of the winningest coach in franchise history.

Houston Rockets seeking D’Antoni clone in coaching search

“The big difference this time is they liked the coach they had. It’s not ‘we need to be different, we need to fix this.’ They liked what they had. They were going to try to keep what they had.

Daryl has always said he’s not a believer in the opposite theory, where you hire a coach who is the opposite of what you had. What they are looking for, I think, is someone who forges the type of relationships that Mike D’Antoni did and can use them to be very demanding. He was close with the players.”

D’Antoni went 217-101 during his four seasons with the franchise, and he inherited a team that went 41-41 prior to his arrival, and led the Rockets to a 55-27 record during the 2016-17 season, which was the third-best record in the Western Conference during his first season at the helm.

The Rockets finished with the best record in the NBA during the 2017-18 season, which was his second season in Houston, and nearly defeated the Golden State Warriors, were it not for an untimely injury to Chris Paul during the 2018 Western Conference. The Rockets finished with identical finishes between 2018-2020, as they held the fourth seed in the Western Conference and were eliminated by the top-seeded teams in the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Rockets have been linked to Tyronn Lue, which isn’t surprising considering how his Cleveland Cavaliers played with a similar 3-point heavy scheme as the Rockets, not to mention Lue’s ability to thrive alongside two superstars in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Lue helped deliver the Cavaliers’ first title in franchise history, and the Cavs made two more trips to the Finals under his watch.

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The Rockets haven’t begun any interviews yet and have been linked to multiple coaches, but it’s safe to say we shouldn’t expect them to look much different next season.