The Houston Rockets failed to go deep in the NBA playoffs and such had repercussions. The first boom was the exit of Mike D’Antoni who informed them that he will no longer return as head coach next season.
The move hardly came as a surprise. Before the 2019-20 NBA season got underway, D’Antoni had an expiring contract but never got an extension. Talks were held but both sides failed to come to terms. Though it was not mentioned, D’Antoni’s tenure likely depended on how the Rockets’ campaign would go.
D’Antoni’s preference to use isolation offense and spacing, not to mention small ball basketball, never panned out. Many questioned the moves, curious how PJ Tucker would be able to hold his own against the taller centers of other teams. Initially, it seemed the Rockets were doing fine. But it was an entirely different ballgame in the NBA playoffs.
Mike and Laurel D’Antoni statement to ESPN on departure from Rockets pic.twitter.com/XypyT8bgC0 — Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 13, 2020
Regardless, Rockets team owner Tilman Fertita thanked D’Antoni for his contributions. It appears like an amicable separation but the big question now is who will succeed the 69-year-old mentor. No names have emerged but there are a lot of potential candidates. The only problem now is that the Rockets are not the only ones looking for a new head coach.
“I would like to thank Mike D’Antoni and his wife, Laurel, for their incredible contributions to the Houston Rockets organization and the Houston community,” Fertita said via the Houston Rockets official Twitter account.
D’Antoni winds up his Rockets coaching stint with a 217-101 regular-season record. He is 28-23 in the postseason. He will go down as the second-winningest coach in franchise history with his 68.2 winning percentage being the best among all former Rockets coaches.
After D’Antoni, all eyes will be on the players in the mix. Some players may be traded or let go. But the most important position that Houston may want to reconsider is the center position. Tucker did a good job but need a true center to man the slot. That concern will depend on who the Rockets tap to be their next head coach.
According to NBC Sports, there are several names worth considering. The list includes Jeff Van Gundy, Sam Cassell, Tyronn Lue, Kenny Atkinson and Stephen Silas. These names have been frequently mentioned in the rumor mill with other teams. Van Gundy and Silas were previously linked to the Rockets post and things may now change.
Cassell is a former Rocket who now assists Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue and Atkinson are top names with other clubs like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets seen as potential next stops.