by Alex Poletti
As the final year of his contract with the Houston Rockets comes to a close, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni made it clear that he intends to helm the team through at least three more unsuccessful playoff runs.
“I believe I still have the ability to do this at a high level for the next three years,” the 68-year-old says. “I’ve led my players to the postseason, only to have them brick shots when it counts for quite some time now, I don’t see why I should stop now.”
D’Antoni is a pioneer of the fast-paced, three-point shooting style of basketball his team now possesses. Former NBA player Jack McCallum wrote about his time as a bench player for D’Antoni’s 2005-2006 Phoenix Suns in “07 Seconds Or Less,” which thankfully is not about his sex life. His most successful year as coach came in the 2017-2018 season, when he led the Rockets to a team-record 65 wins, best in the NBA.
The Rockets boast an impressive accomplishment of seven straight postseason berths, spanning three head coaches. Despite D’Antoni being brought into Houston for the purpose of winning a championship, all of the attempts thus far have ended without a ring.
“There are just a few things I want to accomplish in the NBA before I call it quits,” the coach explains. “I’ve only been eliminated by the Warriors in the playoffs twice in a row. Hopefully we can get three more by the time I’m done.”
One person who would love to see D’Antoni stay in Houston is 2017-2018 NBA MVP James Harden.
“Mike is a great coach, he just lets me play my game,” Harden says. “He lets me shoot threes and doesn’t care about defense, that’s what makes him such an understanding guy.”
D’Antoni has faced criticism in his time as the Rockets coach for building his strategy around James Harden’s electric offense, often overlooking the defensive elements of the game.
“I think the best defense is a good offense,” D’Antoni says. “I also think the best team in the league loses in the conference finals. These things help me sleep at night.”
D’Antoni cites not just his zeal for basketball and young age as reasons to continue his coaching career; he also has some lofty goals to accomplish.
“I want to bring a championship to Houston,” D’Antoni says. “And by that I mean I want to carry the World Series trophy for the Astros in the parade when they win it again. Or maybe the Lombardi trophy if the Texans can pull it together. I think those are the most realistic options here.”