With months passed since head coach Mike D’Antoni was not offered an extension by the Houston Rockets, the latest rumors suggest that he is still not expected to return to the team for the 2020-21 season.
Although D’Antoni had previously been quoted as saying that he still plans to focus on his job with the Rockets despite the fact his contract wasn’t extended, David Aldridge of The Athletic reported on Monday that even before the 2019-20 campaign started, the expectation was that the veteran head coach will not be back in Houston after the season ends, as quoted by Bleacher Report.
“Things change, of course, and I’m old enough to know you never say never. But my guess is still that he leaves.”
Having compiled a career record of 668-523 with the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Rockets and a record of 213-97 in four seasons with Houston, D’Antoni is expected to be a coveted coaching free agent if he doesn’t get rehired for the coming season. With a stellar lineup featuring All-Star guards and former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the 68-year-old led the Rockets to a 40-24 record — good for sixth place in the Western Conference — at the time the NBA went on hiatus last month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to his impressive win-loss record as an NBA head coach, D’Antoni has also been credited for helping bring up-tempo basketball back to the league. Currently, the Rockets are ranked second in the NBA in offensive efficiency and third in game pace, thus underscoring their status as one of the league’s most potent offensive teams.
“It’s hard to imagine a better coaching fit for the Rockets, who lean so heavily on two offense-first players to lead their team,” Bleacher Report added.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 12, 2020
Despite the new rumors hinting at D’Antoni’s lack of job security in Houston, previous comments from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta hint that the team is still interested in keeping him around on a long-term basis. As quoted by Bleacher Report, Fertitta said that the 68-year-old coach seems to be the “right guy” for the team, as well as a great offensive coach who, as he sees it, might not be headed to another team ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Similarly, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month (via Sports Illustrated) that D’Antoni is “one of the best all-time coaches.” He also expressed hope that 2020 would be “the year” for D’Antoni, whom he compared to all-time great players who weren’t able to win a championship despite their otherwise excellent credentials.