In somewhat of an unsurprising move Mike D’Antoni informed the Houston Rockets he would not be returning to coach the team the following season. Immediately Adrian Wojnarowski said that D’Antoni would be on a list of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers. D’Antoni was an assistant under Brown for a short period of time, and is a well-traveled, well-experienced coach, but is he the right hire for the 76ers?
Before we continue, I will continue to be bullish on the Tyronn Lue to Philly movement because I believe Lue would be the best hire. Over the past few weeks I profiled a few coaches including Lue. You can find them here.
Now, about MDA
Mike got his coaching start in Europe in 1990 leading Olimpia Milan to a FIBA EuroLeague Final Four in 1992. After working as an assistant for the Denver Nuggets, he eventually gained the Head Coach position but was let go for poor performance in 1999. He went on to be a scout for the Spurs and an assistant for the Blazers until he left to go back to coach in Europe in 2001-2002.
In 2002 Mike left Europe to become an assistant for the Suns where he later took over as head coach in 2003. D’Antoni, aiding by the acquisition of Steve Nash, led the Suns to the conference finals two years in a row, running the pick and roll, pace heavy offense dubbed “seven seconds or less”.
D’Antoni left the Suns in 2008 and failed attempts in New York and Los Angeles (Lakers), took a short stint as the associate head coach for the 76ers, and then took the head coaching position with the Houston Rockets where the team failed to get out of the second round. Mike has a regular-season record of 718-555 and a playoff record of 54-56.
D’Antoni coaching style and fit
If you watched the Houston Rockets lately, anyone can see that their style of play relied heavily on high volume three-point shooting. Something that made the Rober Covington acquisition good for the Rockets, if you can shoot a lot of threes and make them at a decent clip, i.e. Roco, you’d fit in there. Even in his 7 seconds or less offense we saw Steve Nash take the most threes per game of his career at 4.7. Also to note that D’Antoni bigs where much more of rim runners like Amare Stoudamire and Clint Capella, before Houston shook it up and want small ball.
“D’Antoni, who acknowledges he’s nonconfrontational to a fault”From “‘There’s too much damn turmoil’: An unsettling vibe surrounds these Rockets” by Tim MacMahon of ESPN June 16, 2019
Like I said before, Tyronn Lue would be my first choice, but that being said Mike D’Antoni presents an interesting case. Known for his offensive innovation, can he bring his fast style of offense to the 76ers while tailoring to the team’s roster? Or will he come in and try to force guys like Matisse Thybulle to shoot 7 three’s a game? As for any coach that comes in he is going to need to adjust to make it work around talent. Lack of an experience point guard behind Ben Simmons, and Simmons’ lack of shooting, in my opinion, doesn’t really work for Mike’s style of play. Add in a low-post dominate big like Joel Embiid, much unlike the rim runner he had in Clint Capella, the two sides don’t seem to mesh.
Even more important than that, I look at the above quote. There was reported tension between Harden and Chris Paul, along with front office demands (replacing 5 of his assistants one offseason), and knowing Mike is “nonconfrontational to a fault” doesn’t come off as the heavy-handed, change the culture, demand respect kind of coach that most of us want to see come in and get the best out of the teams two stars.
D’Antoni is a hard pass for me. Great regular season coach with the right personnel but can’t get it done in the offseason. And coming into the 76ers situation there are just too many questions involving scheme, style of play, and a certain type of confrontation that the team’s young stars need, D’Antoni doesn’t check those boxes. Again I am partial to Lue, and I understand the 76ers need to do their due diligence and explore as many possibilities as they can, but if you ask me the team should pass on Mike D’Antoni.