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Trail Blazers Rumors: Nets' Mike D'Antoni Interested in Replacing Terry Stotts as HC

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 10, 2021

Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Mike D'Antoni reportedly has "serious interest" in the Portland Trail Blazers' head coaching vacancy after the team parted ways with Terry Stotts.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Thursday it's unclear whether Blazers general manager Neil Olshey will consider D'Antoni, who has built a reputation as an offensive head coach with five NBA franchises. Olshey has said the team will seek a defensive-minded coach. 

D'Antoni compiled a 672-527 regular-season record across 16 years with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. His teams posted a 54-56 mark in the playoffs, however, and never advanced beyond the conference finals.

When the Nets hired former All-Star point guard Steve Nash as a first-time head coach in September, he brought in the 70-year-old West Virginia native as one of his lead assistants after playing under his guidance with the Suns.

"People talk about the Phoenix teams I played on, and this sort of revolutionary tone of how it impacted the game, but the truth be told, Mike D'Antoni's brilliance in much of that was he allowed it to evolve instead of getting in the way," Nash told reporters in November.

With Nash and D'Antoni working together, the star-studded Brooklyn squad led the NBA in offensive efficiency during the 2020-21 regular season but tied for 19th in defensive efficiency, per ESPN.

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While it's intriguing to consider how the Blazers' backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would fare in that type of system, Olshey made it clear he'd be heading into the coaching search with a defense-first mindset after Stotts' departure:

"Teams that made big jumps on the defensive end were led in part by coaches who players knew on Day 1 they were going to have to defend and be held accountable on that end of the floor because that's what the coach valued. We didn't necessarily go into every game where players felt like they were going to be judged by their defensive impact."

Those comments came after Portland finished as the NBA's second-worst team in defensive efficiency in 2020-21.

In turn, Amick noted Olshey is "very interested" in Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, who was a two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection during his playing days.

D'Antoni could still emerge as a head coaching candidate this offseason with three other active openings (Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic), but it appears he's a long shot in Portland.

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