The NBA coaching carousel is already in full swing, with the Brooklyn Nets making the somewhat surprising decision to hire Steve Nash into their head coaching role and teams like the Pacers, Pelicans, and Sixers all having coaching vacancies at the moment.
You can now add the Houston Rockets to that list, as Mike D’Antoni’s contract with the team has expired with their exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Lakers, and on Sunday he reportedly informed the team he would not be looking to come back, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
D’Antoni, whose contract expired with the end of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, turned down extension offers prior to the season. https://t.co/MeoUrwWADm
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 13, 2020
D’Antoni would release a statement shortly after confirming the news.
All parties involved said the right things in recent days but this isn’t a major surprise. When the Pacers fired Nate McMillan, there were rumblings that D’Antoni was their top target. The former Suns, Knicks, Lakers, and Rockets coach will also reportedly be considered for the Sixers opening, per Woj, and given his pedigree he figures to have plenty of opportunity.
With Houston, D’Antoni built a perennial contender in the West, but one that always fell just short. He remains one of the league’s best offensive coaches and has adapted to the personnel given to him in a way few coaches ever have, with the Rockets small-ball experiment working in a way few imagined. The question is what kind of team he’s looking to go to next, as he may have his pick of the open jobs — personally, I’d love to see him go to Houston and play small-ball with Zion Williamson.
Houston also has a fascinating coaching decision to make, because they’ve made their bed with this small-ball group and have to find a coach that is willing to come in and work with that unit and try to make some tweaks to get them over the hump. Tyronn Lue, who has been named as a candidate for every job in the league thus far, is likewise considered among those who could end up in Houston.
With a head coaching vacancy in Houston, expect the franchise to take a strong look at Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) September 13, 2020
The Rockets are a unique situation, but one with upside in the form of a perennial MVP candidate and a core of experienced veteran players. A coach like Lue might make sense if he’s willing to work with the personnel limitations the small-ball group creates. Another Clippers assistant (and former Rocket) has likewise emerged as a candidate for Houston in Sam Cassell.
Sources: There is mutual interest between the Rockets and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell. Cassell started his playing career with the two-time champion “Clutch City” Rockets.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 13, 2020