Mike D'Antoni has taken a hard road back to being a head coach in the NBA, but he has been rewarded for his recent stint as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers, as he will take over the head job for the Houston Rockets.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported on May 26 the two sides were "finalizing" a four-year deal worth $16 million, which will mark his fifth stint as a head coach in the Association. Marc Berman of Fox 26 in Houston confirmed the news.
Memphis Grizzlies assistant Jeff Bzdelik and Washington Wizards assistant Roy Rogers are "strong" candidates to be added to the staff, per Wojnarowski.
On Sunday, ESPN's Calvin Watkins reported D'Antoni will need to make "decisions" regarding the coaching staff from last season, including Greg Buckner and T.R. Dunn.
D'Antoni reached the Western Conference Finals twice with the Phoenix Suns and also guided the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers to the playoffs in his prior stops.
The style of basketball D'Antoni deploys mandates an uptempo pace and quick shots on offense. It resulted in a lot of points, but none of D'Antoni's teams played defense well enough to deliver an NBA championship.
Suddenly, the innovative coach is in demand again; the Golden State Warriors' recent championship run and historic 73-9 regular-season record have to be big reasons why. Golden State operates a system similar to what D'Antoni ran during his Phoenix heyday, and the Warriors have lapped the rest of the NBA in the process.
Houston is hoping D'Antoni can inspire similar success—or at least make a trip to the postseason as a starting point. There's reason to believe now more than ever in D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" offense, presuming he has the proper personnel to execute it.
Expecting the Rockets to reach the epic heights the Warriors have is unrealistic, but at least the unconventional philosophy D'Antoni has preached now has some championship substance to support its feasibility.
As Houston's roster stands, it at least has a capable offensive catalyst in dynamic 2-guard James Harden, who averaged 29 points per game during the 2015-16 season. All-Star center Dwight Howard has a player option and likely won't remain with the Rockets, which should allow D'Antoni's system to flourish with better resultant spacing.
A big key will be whether the Rockets can improve from a 105.6 defensive rating, per NBA.com, without Howard to protect the paint. They must band together and play better on that end of the floor to take the next step under D'Antoni.