Why Mike D'Antoni Isn't The Ideal Fit For Houston

By Salman Ali on May 18, 2016

It seems Houston's coaching search is winding down and we're starting to get a good look at who the final candidates are.

As we wrote about recently, ESPN's Calvin Watkins and Marc Stein reported Tuesday evening that Mike D'Antoni had been granted another interview and emerged as a finalist for the Rockets' head coaching vacancy. On Wednesday morning, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle pretty much confirmed this report and added that D'Antoni had not only been given another interview, but is now considered 'a frontrunner' for the position along with two other candidates,

Mike D'Antoni's resume speaks for itself. Despite never being able to make the NBA Finals, he's a very accomplished head coach, particularly on the offensive side of the court. D'Antoni's "7 seconds or less" offense which consisted of several variations of pick-and-rolls, lots of transition offense, and shooters that spread the floor to accommodate for the space needed to run such offense. Led by soon-to-be Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, it's one of the greatest offensive systems of all time managing to crack the top ten offense in the league 6 out of the 10 seasons he's been a head coach. This offense completely changed the way the modern NBA is played. The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors, coached by former Suns GM Steve Kerr and former Suns coach Alvin Gentry, famously adopted a significant about of this offense and successfully used it in route to the championship. 

In fact, immediately after winning the 2015 NBA Championship, Kerr told reporters "Tell Mike D'Antoni he's vindicated! We just kicked everyone's ass playing the way everyone complained about!". If you want to dig even deeper, every team that has played in the NBA Finals these past 6 years (Dallas, Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Golden State) stole bits and pieces from the offense and it's still incorporated today in several team's playbooks.

Knock him all you want, the man knows how to run a damn good offense and it's resulted in two Western Conference Finals appearances and over 450 regular season wins. He's a good coach and his influence is still very much present in today's fast-paced NBA.

Now, the question as to whether or not he's the right coach for this team is a different story.

I've written recently about how the Rockets are in desperate need of a culture shift and how James Harden needs a coach that can get through to him and motivate him to be a better leader. It's not pretty clear that D'Antoni isn't the man for this job. Building a healthy culture starts with repairing the defensive side of the floor and D'Antoni's never been able to achieve a defense higher than 13th in the NBA. 

He never successfully built a relationship with his star players in New York or Los Angeles and there's no reason to believe that'll be any different in Houston with James Harden.

Possibly the biggest reason Mike D'Antoni isn't the ideal fit for the job is the plethora of good to great coaching candidates that the Rockets have and could possibly pass up on. Jeff Van Gundy seemed to be the ideal fit for the job and he was officially removed from consideration for the job on Tuesday according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. There's also a myriad of qualified defensive minded coaches still out there to be had. This includes former Pacers' coach Frank Vogel, Charlotte assistant coach Stephen Silas, and Charlotte associate head coach Patrick Ewing. 

It's truly baffling why he's being considered over these candidates considering the Rockets already had the 7th best offense in the league last year and conversely the 20th ranked defense in the league.

At the end of the day, for all we know, Mike D'Antoni could end up being an excellent hire and this post could end up looking stupid. However, considering what this team truly needs needs is a defensive culture and the coaching talent that's still out there, Houston can do much better than D'Antoni.

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