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  • Should the Rockets give head coach Mike D'Antoni a contract extension? The latest Crossover podcast episode explores his future and more.
By Chris Mannix
May 30, 2019

The Houston Rockets ended their season in disappointment once again at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. But are they in need of a change? There have been rumblings about firing head coach Mike D'Antoni. To make matters worse, there are now reports the front office is willing to trade everyone on the team

On the latest Crossover Podcast, Chris Mannix and Rohan Nadkarni dive in on the latest situation surrounding the Rockets, Mike D'Antoni's job security and much more.

(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)


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Chris Mannix: Now let me finish with this. The Houston Rockets, they're, I kind of like what they're doing to Mike D'Antoni, to Milton in an Office Space. It's like we're just getting rid of your coaches and seeing if you're going to quit as we speak. There's been no contract extension for Mike D'Antoni. What do you make of how the Rockets have treated him and his coaching staff? They are basically making the coaching staff the fall guys for what happened in the playoffs last year?

Rohan Nadkarni: It's a very strange. It's very strange and I'm curious, does the Rockets' front office believe that D'Antoni should have adapted his offense in that Golden State series? Because it seems like D'Antoni is coaching to what the front office has always wanted there. It's such a weird situation and I've seen local Rockets writers kind of talk about this narrative that Tillman Fertitta is kind of cheap, or whatever, fair? I'm just skeptical. I'm skeptical of him and the choices they've made so far. You know, from letting Trevor Ariza go last summer—I'm not saying he was a cure-all or fix-all, but that just sends a bad message to guys when you're not willing to go deep into the luxury tax and you have a team that you know is on the verge of beating the Warriors—don't you want to invest as much as you can in there?

I don't think D'Antoni is married to the current style of basketball the Houston Rockets are playing. If anything, I'd bet he'd love to play more of a motion offense or what he made famous with the Phoenix Suns, so I'm just really skeptical of Rockets ownership right now. It doesn't make sense to me that there would be a rift between the front office and D'Antoni—if only because I think D'Antoni has coached the team to the exact specifications of what the front office would want.

When do you ever see this this kind of clearing out of assistant coaches, especially to someone like D'Antoni as much experience as he has as long as he's been a coach. Well this isn't some rookie head guy or, you know, even a Frank Vogel-type who hasn't had much success that maybe the front office and ownership has more input on his staff. It's crazy for a guy with this level of pedigree, that the front office is meddling this much and, to me, it just doesn't bode well for his future.

Mannix: Yeah, and look, when Mike D'Antoni was first brought in a few years ago, it was my understanding that he wasn't a consensus choice of the organization. All that being said, he has adapted his style which is more a free flowing offensive style that we saw in Phoenix—and to a degree in New York—and tailored it to what makes the most sense for the Rockets.

I do think that Game 6 was bitterly disappointing for everybody involved. You're on your home floor. Kevin Durant is out. You're in the almost reverse position from last year where Chris Paul was out last year, and all of a sudden, the Warriors come back to beat the Rockets. Now you have Kevin Durant out and it gives you that same opportunity to fail on your home floor in Game 6. That was hard to take for a lot of people in your organization.

This can only end one of two ways: they either have to extend Mike D'Antoni—which I think is still possible, they could still give him a multi-year contract extension and keep him around with his group he wants to be there, and I think that's still possible—or they've got to fire him because he's not going to be able to assemble a top flight staff as a lame duck coach. No top-level assistants are going to take a job where it's just a one-year contract. You're just not going to get them. There's too much competition for the top guys that are out there, so you've got to extend Mike D'Antoni and then let him go out and hire a better coaching staff, maybe more defensive-minded, whatever you want to do.

I do find it fascinating that Jeff Bzdelik has gone from being like, the guy they needed to comeback as savior, to first man out the door. I also think they've made a mistake firing Irv Roland, who is, you know, a bit of a terrific player development coach for a long time. He's very close with James Harden, has done a lot of good things in a player development role. But, whatever. You got to either extend him or you gotta fire him. Simple as that. Like, you can't go into next season with him as a lame duck coach.

Nadkarni: I just don't get it. Because I don't think D'Antoni has been the problem here and any way whatsoever. Again, I think he has, you know, funneled the ethos of the organization onto what we're seeing on the court. He's doesn't strike me as someone who's not willing to change, not willing to adapt especially when it comes to winning. It's not like he's being ousted. He wants to beat the Warriors as much as anyone else.

It's frustrating to me the way Houston's season has played out because they've really blown a couple of great opportunities now. And they're at a point where they're reaching a little bit of an interesting situation with what's happening with Chris Paul, the way his game has aged, how much money he's owed. How much money Clint Capela's owed makes any real opportunity to change the roster difficult.

Mannix: Yeah, definitely so.

Nadkarni: So in that regard, I kind of understand what a coaching change could do something. But a kind of theme we've talked about is all these teams are theoretically getting worse. Golden State, you know, some of your best competition's taking a hit. You know, why do drastic things right now? I understand that loss was hard to take but, just the way D'Antoni has kind of drawn the blame and responsibility, it just doesn't make sense to me not to fix it. Plus you're rolling the dice on the next coach, whoever that may be, to like, there aren't a lot of great coaches.

Mannix: Yeah. Who are they going to get? Like do you go get Ty Lue and give him a five-year deal? Right now the best coaches are taken and you're just not going to find that top guy out there. Maybe get an assistant from somewhere, it just doesn't make a lot of sense. That's why I think if I had to guess, I think this ends with Mike D'Antoni getting an extension. Maybe it's not for the three years he wanted, whatever it was that he wanted, but maybe it's a two-year extension on top of the deal that he has right now for next season. That will take him through three more years, which gives you some flexibility if you don't want him around after next season. You could let him go and deal with it that way. So we'll see what happens with the Rockets.

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