NBA Rumors: Jeff Van Gundy Could Be Front-Runner If Mike D’Antoni Leaves Houston Rockets

Jeff Van Gundy coaches during the 2019 USA Basketball Men's National Team Blue-White exhibition game.
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Head coach Mike D’Antoni is currently in preparation for his fourth playoff appearance in as many seasons with the Houston Rockets, but questions remain about his future with the franchise. In the event that he leaves the team after this season, Rockets alum Jeff Van Gundy could be the favorite to become the next head coach, according to a report.

Sam Amick — one of The Athletic’s key NBA insiders — made the proclamation on Thursday, saying that Van Gundy would “likely [be] leading the way” out of the gate in a hypothetical coaching search. Amick’s sources further indicated that Tyronn Lue could receive a look from the Rockets as well.

D’Antoni has undeniably been one of the league’s top innovators on the sidelines over the last two decades. His “seven seconds or less” Phoenix Suns teams of the early to mid-2000s ushered in the current era of space and pace offenses that dominate the league. Since becoming the Rockets coach in 2016, he has further incorporated the club’s analytics-based approach to shot selection, which has propelled the Rockets to a spot among the association’s elite offensive units.

Led by James Harden, Houston has ranked in the top four league-wide in offensive rating every year since the 69-year-old was hired. Meanwhile, the team has compiled a record of 217-100 over that span and advanced to the conference finals once.

However, despite their offensive dominance, the Rockets have failed to get out of the West. As chronicled recently in Tim Daniels’ write-up of the Van Gundy rumor for Bleacher Report, D’Antoni turned down an incentive-laden, one-year extension offer before the season, opting instead to let the final year of his contract play out.

Jeff Van Gundy coaches the Houston Rockets during the 2005 NBA Playoffs.
  Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

The 58-year-old Van Gundy, who has been working for several years as a commentator for ESPN/ABC, previously directed the Rockets on the sidelines from 2003 to 2007, advancing to postseason play three times in four years. Despite having talented rosters at his disposal that featured the likes of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, his squads failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Before his Rockets tenure, Van Gundy coached the New York Knicks for parts of seven seasons. In 1999, his Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals but fell short of winning the title when they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games. More recently, he coached for USA Basketball during FIBA World Cup qualification.

The Rockets aren’t the only NBA franchise facing uncertainty on the sidelines. As relayed previously by The Inquisitr, there are questions about whether Jim Boylen will remain at the helm for the Chicago Bulls. However, financial constraints caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could keep the Bulls from making a change.