Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta already announced that head coach Mike D’Antoni will return for the fourth and final season of his contract, but 2019-20 may not be D’Antoni’s last year with the team after all.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, D’Antoni has begun primary extension talks with Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey.
“I've let Daryl and Tilman know that I'm energized to keep coaching – and believe that I can continue to do this at a high level for at least another three years,” D'Antoni told ESPN. “I want to be a part of a championship here.”
D’Antoni has been successful in his first three years in Houston, although his team hasn’t defeated the Golden State Warriors in the postseason.
He inherited a .500 team in 2016-17 and earned his second NBA Coach of the Year Award for improving the Rockets to 55-27. Next season’s team paced the league with a 65-17 record before they overcame a slow start in 2018 to finish 42-15.
“I like Mike,” Fertitta said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I think he’s a very good coach. Players like playing for him. I keep being told, free agents want to know who the owner is and they want to know who the coach is. Mike and I do well together. Hopefully, we’ll continue to win and Mike will be here for a long time.”
It’s not clear if D’Antoni’s request for three years will be met — or even his apparent desire to not coach next season without a longer commitment. However, there will certainly be some level of change with defensive mastermind Jeff Bzdelik not returning.
D’Antoni has been a perfect fit in Houston
Although the lack of playoff success is a major black mark on his Houston resume, D’Antoni has surpassed nearly all expectations with the team.
After poor showings in his previous two stops with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, he has embraced the team’s Moreyball tactics and helped All-World guard James Harden unlock his full potential with an MVP in 2018 and a ridiculous 36.1 points per game average this season.
Known for his fast-paced offenses, D’Antoni helped increase the Rockets’ share of three-pointers from 37 percent in 2015-16 to 48.1 percent this season. As the league turns more to three-pointers, the Rockets continue to lead the way with creativity.
The Rockets should think twice before moving on from D’Antoni, as the coaching market has dried up. Teams were fighting over Monty Williams after he largely failed as the New Orleans Pelicans coach, and the Lakers had to settle for Frank Vogel.
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