Report: Rockets Eye ‘Culture Reset’ After Mike D’Antoni Exit
The last four seasons in Houston have marked one of the most successful stretches in franchise history, with former head coach Mike D’Antoni generating four straight playoff appearances alongside James Harden. But after another ugly playoff exit, the Rockets appear to be eyeing a new strategy in the next decade.
D’Antoni kicked off the first change to the Rockets on Sunday when he announced he will not be returning for a fifth season. And considering Houston’s personnel and contract situation, a new head coach could be the only new aspect of the organization in the ninth year of the Harden era.
“The Rockets, meanwhile, now find themselves in a bit of quandary,” The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Kelly Iko wrote on Tuesday. “They have Harden and Westbrook on the books for massive money in these next three seasons [with player options in the final campaign], and will look to conduct a culture reset of sorts.”
So who exactly will be tabbed to lead Houston’s culture reset? There are no shortage of potential candidates. Clippers assistants Tyronn Lue and Sam Cassell have reportedly received interest from the Rockets, as has former Houston coach and current NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy. Houston’s next head coach will join an organization with championship expectations. Owner Tilman Fertitta will be making the most important decision of his brief tenure after D’Antoni’s departure.
It will be difficult for any new coach to top D’Antoni’s success in Houston. No team has won more regular-season games since 2016, and the Rockets were on pace to win 50 games for the fourth straight season in 2019-20 before the COVID-19 suspension. The expectations are clear. It’s now Finals or bust for the Rockets. The next head coach could be given a short leash, even in a crowded Western Conference.