NBA Rumors: Mike D’Antoni Won’t Return To Rockets, Headed To Free Agency

Mike D'Antoni on the sidelines of an NBA game.
Michael Reaves / Getty Images

The Houston Rockets will reportedly be looking for a new coach next season, with reports that Mike D’Antoni does not intend to return to the team after the conclusion of his contract and will instead test free agency.

The Rockets were eliminated from the NBA playoff bubble by the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, losing the series in five games. While reports indicated that the team had prioritized bringing D’Antoni back on a new contract, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Twitter that the coach has already told Rockets ownership he won’t be back.

“ESPN Sources: Houston coach Mike D’Antoni is informing the franchise’s ownership today that he’s becoming a free agent and won’t return to the Rockets next season,” Wojnarowski wrote in a tweet that you can view here.

The departure comes following a disappointing exit for the Rockets after the franchise invested considerable resources on winning in 2020, including an offseason trade for Russell Westbrook and a trade of big man Clint Capela as Houston adopted a strategy of rolling out smaller and faster lineups. The tactic helped the Rockets defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round but fell short against the bigger and stronger Lakers.

The loss of D’Antoni will likely force the Rockets into new plans for the coming year. As The Inquisitr reported, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that keeping D’Antoni was a major priority for 2020-21.

“It’s probably No. 1[.] That’s a fair way to put it,” Morey told USA Today reporter Mark Medina.

“We have all our key players signed. I think Mike coming back is super important.”

D’Antoni had announced last year that he would not be renewing his contract, which was up at the conclusion of this year. While ESPN reported that the coach wanted to come back for another three years, the talks apparently will not progress as he now looks for a new destination.

If he does end up leaving, D’Antoni will leave a successful four-year stretch with the Rockets that still fell short of championship expectations. The team reached the doorstep of the NBA Finals in 2018 but lost to the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.

Mike D'Antoni coaches in an NFL game.
  Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

Though D’Antoni was able to put together one of the league’s best offenses behind MVP James Harden, he was not able to get past the powerhouse of the conference in the Warriors, and this season could not overcome LeBron James and the Lakers.

It’s not clear where D’Antoni could be headed next or exactly when he may start coaching, as the beginning of the next NBA season is still up in the air due to the effects of the coronavirus.