NBA

Mike D’Antoni Felt ‘Disrespected’ by the Ownership of the Houston Rockets

Mike D’Antoni has a celebrated career in which many of his teams perform well in the playoffs. Still, after a mutual departure with the Houston Rockets following another disappointing postseason, he feels like the team did not respect him.

D’Antoni’s teams have a reputation for having a fast-paced offense that struggles when the wins matter most, but his ability to get teams there is undeniable. Did D’Antoni get disrespected, or did the Rockets make the right move? A recent article by The Athletic dove into the behind the scenes details.

The Mike D’Antoni problem

D’Antoni is best-known for his tenure with the Phoenix Suns. With only a partial season in Denver as an interim head coach before this opportunity, D’antoni took over the team in 2003 after his predecessor, Frank Johnson, was fired two-thirds of the way into the season.

Not long after, the Suns were the talk of the NBA town. When Steve Nash returned to the team that he first played for, D’Antoni became one of the league’s hottest coaches. 

Those Suns teams ran with a pace that few could keep up with. However, when the going got tough against equal competition, they also had a penchant for failing as soon as adversity struck. After mostly forgettable tenures in both New York and Los Angeles, D’Antoni returned to the coaching game with James Harden and company. 

The Rockets got close several times. However, as seen in 2018, when the team had a chance to take advantage of their series lead, they fumbled both times against a Warriors team. Despite Chris Paul’s injury, the team had significant leads in both games and went out with a whimper. The last two years saw similar problems. 

Why did Mike D’Antoni leave?

Mike D'Antoni looks on from the sideline during a Houston Rockets game
Mike D’Antoni coaching the Houston Rockets | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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D’Antoni wasn’t the only problem with the team, but with the Rockets’ recent loss to the Lakers in the playoffs after barely clinging to a win over the Paul-led Thunder, the team decided to go a different way.

D’Antoni announced that his time with the Houston Rockets was done in a message to the fans. The writing was on the wall during a contract year, but after a disappointing end to the 2020 season, the time came for a new direction.

D’Antoni’s strengths on offense are undeniable. Despite flaws that might bite him in the offseason, his offenses often get to the top of the league. However, as good as he is in the regular season, his failure to make the proper adjustments when adversity strikes his team is just as noticeable. This might not have been on D’Antoni, however.

His team struggled against both the Thunder and the Lakers, but Harden’s penchant for similar collapses in the biggest moments of the postseason goes back to his days in Oklahoma City. 

Although the pair did not have a seemingly toxic relationship, they never quite clicked. The coach reportedly felt disrespected by the team that seemed poised to throw him under the bus before leaving the team. 

Was he disrespected? 

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Daryl Morey is famously one of the most outspoken general managers in the NBA; It was him, after all, who started the entire controversy with the NBA and China. The same goes for owner Tilman Fertitta. However, his speaking out occasionally alienates his team.

According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Kelly Iko, this was a problem for D’Antoni. The article explained how D’Antoni long felt disrespected by the owner. One of the main problems was him not getting a contract extension.

Other teams are reportedly interested in D’Antoni’s services. However, with his track record on the court, some of the same problems could arise if they aren’t careful. D’Antoni is a perfect coach for those waiting to reinvigorate an offense.