NBA Rumors: Jeff Van Gundy Could Return As Rockets Coach If Mike D’Antoni Leaves, Per ‘The Athletic’

Jeff Van Gundy gives orders while coaching during a Team USA exhibition game.
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It may have been close to 15 years since Jeff Van Gundy last coached in the NBA, but, if the latest rumors are to be believed, the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach might be returning to the latter team for the 2020-21 season.

As noted by Sam Amick of The Athletic on the Brodie and the Beard podcast (via CBS Sports), it’s doubtful whether current Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni will return to the organization after the 2019-20 season if they do not win a championship. While the coaching veteran has enjoyed success and has consistently led Houston to the playoffs since he took over as head coach during the summer of 2016, various outlets have reported that he and the Rockets haven’t had much progress in contract negotiations since the 2019 offseason.

“The information that we’ve constantly heard is that that bridge, for the most part, has been burned, and now they’re just kind of mutually agreeing to make the best of the time they have together,” Amick wrote, adding that Van Gundy’s name has been “consistently” brought up as a likely replacement for D’Antoni.

Jeff Van Gundy (R), then coaching the Houston Rockets, has a sideline conversation with Steve Francis (L) during a 2004 game against the Washington Wizards.
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D’Antoni has developed a reputation as a coach who prefers an uptempo style of play, with the Rockets ranking second in the NBA with 113.4 points per 100 possessions at the time the league’s operations were suspended in March. If Van Gundy ends up replacing him, there’s a good chance Houston will shift its focus to the defensive end of the floor, as Amick further speculated. This, he said, could be what superstar shooting guard and former league MVP James Harden needs at this point in his career, given his perceived deficiencies as a defender.

An 11-year head coaching veteran in the NBA, Van Gundy has compiled a 430-318 record in regular-season action, making the playoffs nine times between 1995 and 2007, per Basketball-Reference. The 58-year-old, who currently works as an analyst for ESPN, spent parts of seven seasons with the Knicks and four complete seasons with the Rockets, posting a 52-30 record in the 2006-07 campaign — his last coaching stint in the league.

In addition to Van Gundy, another defensive-oriented coach is rumored to be in consideration as a potential replacement for D’Antoni. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, former Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau has apparently attracted the attention of multiple teams, with the Rockets joining the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets as the most likely candidates to hire the former Coach of the Year winner.