Exploring ripple effects of Mike D’Antoni’s decision to leave the Rockets

Seemingly inevitable since before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended back in March, the Houston Rockets will be searching for a new head coach.

One day after his team was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, head coach Mike D’Antoni has informed Houston’s brass that he will not return next season.

Houston won the first game of this second-round matchup before losing the next four. This included an ugly performance from James Harden in a must-win Game 4 outing last week.

D’Antoni, 69, departs Houston after posting a tremendous 207-101 record in four seasons. It was the lack of playoff success that led to this divorce. It will also have wide-ranging ramifications around the NBA.

Potential landing spots for D’Antoni

  • The veteran head coach still wants to man an NBA bench moving forward despite his relatively advanced age.
  • There’s obviously some pretty darn good openings around the Association right now. Could the Philadelphia 76ers be a possible fit after firing Brett Brown?
  • With that said, Philadelphia’s current core group is unlikely to have much success playing D’Antoni’s brand of small-ball basketball.
  • The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder could ultimately make more sense. 

What does D’Antoni’s departure from the Rockets mean?

  • I previously focused on the possibility that Houston looks to trade James Harden this offseason and start anew with a rebuild. As currently constructed, these Rockets are not in any way title contenders.
  • With that said, it’s more than likely that the Rockets decide to run it back in 2020-21 with Harden and fellow former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook leading the charge.
  • Houston is capped out. It does not have draft pick assets. The team’s owner is against going into the luxury tax. That makes it hard to believe the team will be able to improve too much this fall and winter.

Rockets’ next head coach? 

  • There’s certainly a lot of variables to look at here. Westbrook himself played under former Thunder head coach Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City. He could make sense as a long-term option for Houston after a surprising departure from OKC.
  • Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown has experience working with a star backcourt in that of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. He’s a candidate for other head-coaching jobs and could make sense in Houston, too.
  • Of those not as well-known, Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas and Charles Lee with the Bucks could end up being options.

Bottom line

Houston is not necessarily looking to start anew with a rebuild. D’Antoni was always going to be a questionable long-term fit in Houston. That became evident following the Rockets’ disastrous postseason performance against the Lakers.

With that said, he’s going to be bandied about a whole lot as other teams search for new head coaches. As for the Rockets, they’re now one of the more attractive openings around the Association.