Mike D’Antoni is headed to Houston to try his “Seven Seconds or Less” offense with James Harden, one of the NBA’s most explosive offensive threats.
D’Antoni reached agreement with the Rockets on a four-year deal on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the hiring, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
The 65-year-old D’Antoni has long been thought of as one of the most innovative offensive minds in basketball. He led the Phoenix Suns to two Western Conference finals appearances in five seasons, with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire spearheading a break-neck scoring machine that put the entire league on its heels.
He wasn’t as successful in ensuing stints with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, but returned to the bench as an associate head coach in Philadelphia this season in hopes of getting another chance to run the show.
D’Antoni inherits a team in turmoil with the Rockets. They were one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments this season, with discord in the locker room leaking on to the court. After making the Western Conference finals in 2015, the Rockets barely made the playoffs this year and were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Coach Kevin McHale was fired early in the season as GM Daryl Morey desperately tried to find the right buttons to push to get the team going. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff went 37-34 in McHale’s place.
The Rockets conducted an exhaustive coaching search. Charlotte assistant Stephen Silas, Orlando assistant Adrian Griffin, San Antonio assistant James Borrego and TNT analyst Kenny Smith were among the candidates interviewed by Morey and owner Leslie Alexander.
D’Antoni is 455-426 in 12 seasons as a head coach, including a 50-game stint with the Denver Nuggets in 1998-99. He has led his team to the playoffs six times.
His offensive expertise figures to mesh well with Harden, the bearded face of the franchise known for his scoring and volume shooting. But he remains a versatile threat that averaged 7.5 assists this season to go with his 29.0 points.
There were issues with Harden and center Dwight Howard, who is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. It will be up to D’Antoni and Morey to find the right mix of players to surround Harden with, and D’Antoni is expected to bring in a coaching staff with experience on the defensive end to help balance his acumen on the offensive side.