Mike D’Antoni is out as head coach of the Houston Rockets following a humbling five-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the postseason, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. D’Antoni was not fired as his contract expired at the end of the season but the coach is reportedly informing the team on Sunday that he intends to become a free agent and not return to Houston.
D’Antoni and his wife, Laurel, shared the following message with Wojnarowski concerning his tenure in Houston.
“It’s with tremendous sadness and gratitude that my wife Laurel and I announce that our incredible journey in Houston has ended for now and that we’ll be moving to a new chapter. Our time here was among the most memorable experiences of our lives. From the dear friends we’ve made, the incredible partnerships with civic minded-leaders and city officials, to the wonderful nonprofits and the clients they serve. Laurel and I will be forever indebted to this community for embracing our family.
Most of all, I can’t thank enough the entire Fertitta family, Daryl Morey, the staff, and the incredible and dedicated players I’ve been privileged to coach. The Rockets are a historic NBA franchise with fantastic fans and we’ve been proud to join with you to play a part in some of the successes here in Houston.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for making us feel like true Houstonians. For that, we will always be truly grateful.”
He had reportedly been on the hot seat all season, and the Rockets let a number of his assistants go last offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey said that the Rockets hoped to re-sign D’Antoni earlier in the postseason, but the expectation around the league was that he needed a deep playoff run to remain in Houston.
D’Antoni leaves Houston as one of the most successful coaches in the team’s history, but a victim of poor circumstances. He went 217-101 in four seasons at the helm, helping James Harden win the 2018 award, but in four postseason runs, he ran into Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and the largely healthy Golden State Warriors twice. His team was the underdog in all four matchups, and the Rockets never made it to the NBA Finals under his watch.
D’Antoni is now expected to be a candidate for several other head-coaching jobs. The Indiana Pacers are interested, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He revived his career during a brief stint as an assistant under Brett Brown with the Philadelphia 76ers, and now the 76ers job is open. The New Orleans Pelicans are run by David Griffin, who worked with D’Antoni in Phoenix. In all likelihood, he will be a head coach somewhere next season.
Houston, meanwhile, will need to find a coach that fits its unorthodox small-ball roster and can get the most out of the James Harden-Russell Westbrook duo. That will be no easy task given their ages and respective postseason struggles, but the Rockets were a popular upset pick over the Lakers for a reason. This is, if nothing else, an extremely talented roster that needs tweaks more than an overhaul. There’s no telling what the future holds in Houston, but now we know that D’Antoni won’t be a part of it.