After general manager Daryl Morey’s comments about the Houston Rockets putting everyone up for grabs once the new season starts, questions surrounded the future of head coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Rockets have been successful in the regular season during D’Antoni’s time in Houston, but like all of his teams seem to do, they never can get it done in the postseason. D’Antoni wants a three-year extension with the team, expressing concern that he didn’t want to enter the 2019-20 season as a lame duck coach on the hot seat.
That hasn’t happened yet, and it appears this could be D’Antoni’s last year with the team — unless it gets over the hump in the playoffs. With sweeping changes coming to the rest of the coaching staff, we will look at his time in Houston to determine whether he deserves an extension.
Coaching staff changes around Mike D’Antoni
The first big piece of information that could seal D’Antoni’s fate is the fact that Morey fired multiple coaches at the end of the season. Two potential candidates to join the staff are Lionel Hollins and Will Hardy.
Hollins was a head coach for Memphis and Brooklyn in the past and can bring a tough, hard-nosed defensive mindset to a team lacking in that department. Another reason he is being considered is because the Rockets have tried to hire him twice before with no luck.
Hardy is a current Spurs assistant coach and has been with the club since 2010. He would be an excellent addition to the staff and bring some of the winning culture from San Antonio over to the Rockets.
It will be interesting to see what Morey decides and how quickly these coaches can make an impact on the Rockets.
Regular season success
Over the last couple of seasons, the Rockets have been one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They were the No. 1 seed in the 2018 playoffs after winning 65 games, and they took the defending champion Golden State Warriors to seven games and were very close to an NBA Finals appearance.
This season saw more of the same as the Rockets were the No. 4 seed with 53 wins. Houston had another showdown with the Warriors in the western conference semifinals.
During his time in Houston, D’Antoni has a .703 winning percentage with a 173-73 regular season record. James Harden developed into an NBA MVP under Mike D’Antoni, and this season could win his second consecutive award after averaging over 36 points per game this season.
We previously hinted at the loss in last year’s Western Conference finals. The Rockets hosted Golden State in Game 7, but they couldn’t seal the deal. Houston missed 27 straight 3-point attempts at one point. There have been other failures for the Rockets in the playoffs. Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semis in 2017, and James Harden hardly showed up (10 points on 2-of-11 shooting) for the final game.
That series-ending loss, which included a decisive block by Kawhi Leonard to end the game, left a bad taste in the mouth of Rocket fans, and it didn’t help to see Harden at a nightclub celebrating with one of the local rappers afterward.
Celebrating after a loss was not a good look for Harden or the Rockets because it showed their team leader seemingly not caring about getting eliminated from the playoffs.
This season included another meeting with the Warriors that resulted in another early playoff exit in six games. Chris Paul dealt with an injury (again) during the series, and many Rockets players felt if he was available the series would gone went differently.
Can Mike D’Antoni save his job?
The only way D’Antoni can save his job is if the Rockets make the NBA Finals. Anything less will probably see him get the ax at the end of the 2019-20 season, if not before then. There will definitely be some changes to the roster, so expect D’Antoni and the Rockets players to fight not only for a championship, but also everyone’s jobs.