The architect behind the "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns and James Harden's rise into basketball's most unstoppable isolation playmaker doesn't exactly fit the mold of the defensive-minded coach Neil Olshey insists the Trail Blazers need after parting ways with Terry Stotts. On the other hand, Portland will certainly be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished, respected candidate for its coaching vacancy than Mike D'Antoni.
Just as important? D'Antoni has "serious interest" in becoming the Blazers' next head coach, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.
A source with knowledge of D’Antoni’s situation said he has serious interest in the Portland position, though it remains to be seen if it will be reciprocated.
While the extent of Portland's mutual interest in D'Antoni is unknown, reading the tea leaves suggests the team is at least open to the possibility of him taking the reins.
The 70-year-old has been rumored as a potential candidate for the Blazers' job since the spring, when reports of Stotts' hot seat first surfaced. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported immediately after Stotts' departure that D'Antoni was expected to be considered as his replacement.
On Tuesday, ESPN's Jordan Schultz reported that Portland is one of several teams with coaching opening showing interest in D'Antoni.
Olshey insisted during his inflammatory season-ending presser that any reported list of candidates for the Blazers' position was pure speculation. It's worth noting that Olshey also said Portland wouldn't reach out to candidates currently employed by other teams until after the first round of the playoffs.
D'Antoni joined the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant this season, serving under rookie head coach Steve Nash – a reprisal of their historic partnership with the Suns in the late 2000s. Brooklyn is currently up 2-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.
Though best known for his groundbreaking offensive concepts and ability to maximize star ball handlers, D'Antoni's teams haven't only been driven by success on that side of the ball.
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets finished seventh in defensive efficiency, riding an all-switch scheme to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the juggernaut Golden State Warriors – a series they might have won if Chris Paul hadn't been injured. Even the ill-fated 2019-20 Rockets weren't as bad on defense as conventional wisdom made it seem. After trading for Robert Covington and fully committing to small-ball, Houston finished the season as a top-10 defense.
In addition to Phoenix and Houston, D'Antoni's previous head-coaching stops came with the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. His teams have advanced to the playoffs in 10 of his 16 seasons as a head coach, including three trips to the Western Conference Finals. D'Antoni's regular-season coaching record is 672-527 (.560), while he's 54-56 (.491) in the playoffs.