One day after the Houston Rockets lost their Western Conference semifinal series to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team looks to have lost its head coach as well. Mike D'Antoni informed the team he would not be returning next season. However, their loss could be the Philadelphia 76ers' gain, as the 69-year-old is reportedly a candidate for the franchise's open head coaching job.
According to ESPN's NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, D'Antoni, who has twice been named the league's Coach of the Year, will be considered among the group of candidates for the position.
Although the 76ers finished the 2019-20 regular season with a 43-30 record and advanced to the playoffs for the third consecutive year under their previous coach, Brett Brown, the team proved to be one of the more disappointing units in the postseason, getting swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
Brown's firing was nonetheless a surprising one, given the way he had shepherded a club led by young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons from the bottom of the league to the top of the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia had failed to win more than 19 games during the three-year run before Embiid made his debut.
Still, the 76ers never managed to advance beyond the East semifinals, even as management worked to improve the roster.
Sixers GM Elton Brand made multiple blockbuster trades in 2018 to shore up the club's roster for a deep playoff run, acquiring multi-time All-Star Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. He also made the move to acquire former All-Star Al Horford last summer. In the end, those moves didn't pan out; Butler eventually joined the Miami Heat, while Harris and Horford have underperformed.
As it stands, Philadelphia still has a talented, young core of players, but getting its next head coaching hire right will be of the utmost importance. To that end, D'Antoni has a resume worth considering.
Although his Rockets failed to escape the gauntlet that is the NBA's Western Conference over his four years on the sidelines, D'Antoni's tenure in Houston was a hugely successful one. He compiled a 217-101 record during his time with the club, logging a regular-season winning percentage of 68.2.
D'Antoni's famed "seven or seconds or less" offensive principles, which helped his Phoenix Suns ignite a space-and-pace evolution during the mid-to-late 2000s, combined with Houston's analytics-based approach to the game, proved to be a winning mix on the court.
The Rockets consistently fielded one of the league's best offenses over the course of D'Antoni's tenure. This past season, Houston ranked sixth in offense, scoring 112.5 points per 100 possessions, after finishing first or second by the same measure during each of the previous three seasons, according to NBA stats.