The Houston Rockets’ season again ended in disappointing fashion against the Golden State Warriors. Another strong regular season, another postseason in which the team looked like the NBA’s biggest threat to the Warriors and another loss at the hands of the NBA’s currenty dynasty.
In response, the team is turning over just about every part of its coaching staff save for head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Rockets fire several assistants, but not Mike D’Antoni
The firings actually began last week, when the Rockets dropped D’Antoni’s No. 2 and a well-regarded defensive coach in Jeff Bzdelik, per the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen.
Jeff Bzdelik, the Rockets associate head coach who guided the defensive improvement last season, was let go today, a person with knowledge of the decision said.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 18, 2019
Then came the report that the third name on the Rockets’ coaching staff roster was headed out.
Assistant coach Roy Rogers won't return to Rockets https://t.co/LfwuW0G5nk— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 24, 2019
Then another assistant and the team’s video coordinator.
Other Rockets changes have also come down. Assistant Mitch Vanya and video coordinator John Cho also won't be back, source said. https://t.co/fhbXHf3vVE— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 24, 2019
And then the team’s player development coach.
Rockets player development coach Irv Roland said he also will not be back. https://t.co/HjoyToyfBY— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 24, 2019
Assistants Brett Gunning and John Lucas are reportedly among the coaches staying, but it looks like they’re going to have a lot of new co-worker names to learn next season. Of course, the coach with the most to be concerned about is probably D’Antoni himself.
Is Mike D’Antoni out the door next for the Rockets?
With about half of his coaching staff out the door, there is now chatter in the coaching community that D’Antoni’s job status is in doubt, according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein. D’Antoni reportedly only has one year left on his contract, giving the team the ability to cleanly break from him next offseason.
Of course, dropping D’Antoni would be a massive gamble for the Rockets. Sports history is littered with teams that hit mediocrity after deciding to fire a coach that regularly delivered strong title contenders without actually winning a title.
Granted, D’Antoni, whose reputation for fast, offensive-focused teams makes him an easy target for criticism, still hasn’t reached the NBA Finals despite having coached seven 50-win teams and three 60-win teams with the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets.
However, D’Antoni also delivered the only team to ever take the Kevin Durant Warriors to seven games last year. He has also delivered three of the 10 winningest teams in Rockets history in his three years in Houston, finding a way to beautifully mesh James Harden and Chris Paul as the former developed into one of the best scorers in NBA history.
Can you really fault a quality coach for not being able to beat one of the best teams in NBA history? And, more importantly, do you really think you can do better in your next coaching search?
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