Stephen A. Smith talks about D’Antoni’s irreversible damage to Rockets

Houston Rockets Mike D'Antoni (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Mike D'Antoni (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) /

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith cited potential obstacles in the way of the Houston Rockets’ search for their next head coach.

The Houston Rockets are undergoing a rebuild of sorts, as they’re seeking to hire their 15th coach in the history of the Rockets franchise. The Rockets’ latest coach, Mike D’Antoni, decided to pass on the opportunity to remain with the franchise for the coming years, as there was reported friction between he and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta.

The Rockets are one of many teams in pursuit of a head coach, as the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder are also seeking to hire a new coach to lead their respective franchises. The Rockets are one of the best jobs on the market, as they’re the only team that boasts two MVPs, not to mention a former Executive of the Year in Daryl Morey.

But several other teams have filled their coaching vacancies before the Rockets, such as the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, and Philadelphia 76ers, despite the Rockets having more to offer across the board.

Stephen A. Smith cites Houston Rockets’ challenges in coaching search

There are several possibilities for the Rockets not being the top priority for prospective coaches, and they aren’t exactly positive ones either.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith pointed out a potential reason on ESPN’s First Take, which he records alongside Molly Qerim-Rose and Max Kellerman.

“I don’t know if you can undo what D’Antoni has done, in terms of the habits that he’s created in H-Town.”

Smith made the comments while stating that the Rockets were interested in Doc Rivers, which was prior to Thursday’s announcement that Rivers had accepted the head coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers. Smith didn’t elaborate on which habits he was referring to, but it seems fairly easy to piece together what exactly he was referring to.

D’Antoni was viewed in the media as a coach that encouraged the Rockets to shoot a barrage of threes, and not applying the same dedication on the defensive end of the floor, which doesn’t align with the fact that the Rockets had the best defense in the 2020 bubble. D’Antoni was also viewed as a players coach, as he always encouraged players to let it fly, which didn’t sit well with many in the media.

The popular belief in media circles is that D’Antoni didn’t hold James Harden accountable, although the Rockets didn’t agree with that narrative. The Rockets reportedly wanted D’Antoni back at the helm, which makes it less surprising to hear that they’re looking for his clone.

But it’s worth wondering if the Rockets’ coaching job is viewed by prospective coaches from Smith’s lenses, as they’re one of the few marquee openings still available.

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Let’s certainly hope not, because that would make it rather difficult to land a top-tier coach, and even more difficult to recover from the D’Antoni snafu.