Mike D'Antoni

Houston Rockets And Memphis Grizzlies Finally Get Coaches; Which Was The Better Hire?

It took them long enough but the Houston Rockets finally got their coach. And not to be outdone, so did the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Houston Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni (courtesy of NBA.com) to be the new coach on Friday. D’Antoni had previously coached the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers.

In, Memphis, the Grizzlies officially announced the hiring of David Fizdale on Sunday. According to AP Sports, the announcement comes days after he agreed to be the new head coach. The Rockets and Grizzlies were the last two teams to bring in coaches.

Which team had the better hire?

If anyone were to ask ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, he definitely would not say that the Houston Rockets made the better hire. Smith issued his opinion on the Rockets’ hiring of Mike D’Antoni on ESPN First Take.

Stephen A. Smith lauded D’Antoni’s ability to sell his ideas to teams who are looking at hiring coaches. But the criticism that was offered was that neither of the team’s Mike D’Antoni coached were even average defensive teams. Mike D’Antoni takes over the Houston Rockets, who were porous on defense.

If the Rockets front office were looking at improving the defense, they went for an offensive mind. The Rockets missed out on the best defensive coaches available in Tom Thibodeau and Frank Vogel. Mike D’Antoni will be able to give the Rockets’ offense an identity at least.

A lot of isolation plays were run in Houston. Shooting guard James Harden dictated the flow of the offense with his usage rate of 32.5 percent. Harden was third amongst NBA players, just behind DeMarcus Cousins and Stephen Curry. One would expect Harden to become the biggest beneficiary from the hiring of Mike D’Antoni.

The biggest loser with the D’Antoni hiring seems to be Rockets’ fans who wanted to see Dwight Howard return to the team. Howard was one of the few players who tried on defense. After some tense relations with Mike D’Antoni when they were with the Los Angeles Lakers, do not expect a return.

Are the Houston Rockets better with Mike D’Antoni as the new head coach? A firm maybe is the answer.

The Memphis Grizzlies made the most surprising hire of all the NBA coaching vacancies. It is not to say that David Fizdale is not deserving, he is. Few people saw him coming on the coaching radar. Fizdale’s addition to the coaching ranks is a promising one.

After officially announcing the hiring of David Fizdale, Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace had some glowing words in a statement.

“We are pleased to welcome David to Memphis. After a comprehensive search process, and talking with a number of very bright basketball minds, we focused in on David and we are confident that he is the right person for the job. David’s achievements throughout his career, his reputation as a strong tactician, his leadership with player development, and his ability to communicate and build strong relationships with his players make him the clear choice to guide the Grizzlies on and off the court, as we move forward and collectively build on the consistent success we have attained over the last several years.”

David Fizdale’s communication skills have been on display during the eight seasons he has been an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and most recently with the Miami Heat. Whether he was explaining philosophy with Dwyane Wade, or working out with individual players, David Fizdale was one of the most prominent faces on an NBA sideline. That includes head coaches and assistants.

His ability to communicate was praised (courtesy of the West Palm Beach Post) by Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra in 2008.

“And with the most diverse types of people. You can throw him into any room, and he will be able to work with that room. Anywhere. From where he grew up in South Central, to a board meeting to a basketball camp, he can bring any group of people together. And I know I’ll always get the truth out of Fiz, even if it’s not what I want to hear.”

David Fizdale has always been seen working on something with a player. It was destined for him to get a head coaching job. Nobody saw him getting his first crack with the Memphis Grizzlies.

That will help him when he steps inside of the Grizzlies’ locker room. As will the two championship rings he won as an assistant coach. Another thing David Fizdale has going for him is that he is only 42 years-old. That makes him young enough to relate to his players. What we must find out is can Fizdale coach his own team. What are his philosophies on offense and defense? On the one hand, he will have the benefit of a playoff-ready team once center Marc Gasol gets back. The Grizzlies will have to find shooting and establish consistency with its roster.

Comparing the coaching hires of Mike D’Antoni and David Fizdale is a tough chore. They are both legitimate hires, but for different reasons. The directions that the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies take with their roster decisions will determine a lot. For now, it appears that the Grizzlies made the better hire.

David Fizdale is a fresh face. Sure NBA fans have seen him before, but never in the head coaching role. He is also an African-American coach, getting ready to take an NBA job. That is significant for a league that is quickly heading the analytical era. With the recent conversation being about the fear that black coaches might get looked over because of analytics, see ESPN’s Michael Wilbon’s piece in The Undefeated. David Fizdale’s hiring is refreshing.

This does not mean that Mike D’Antoni will be terrible coaching the Houston Rockets. He did not fit the description of the coach they claimed to be seeking. Both the Rockets and Grizzlies should be successful in the long run.

[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]

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