Report: Mike D'Antoni Revealed Decision to Leave Rockets While Plane Was in Air

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

Houston Rockets' Mike D'Antoni yells toward court during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Mike D'Antoni reportedly informed Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey of his decision not to seek a contract extension with the organization while the team flew home Sunday from the NBA's bubble in the Orlando, Florida, area.

Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Tuesday that D'Antoni made his decision after speaking with members of the team but without hearing from governor Tilman Fertitta. He told his agent, Warren LeGarie, to make the news public during the plane ride while he spoke with Morey and players.

Contract negotiations between D'Antoni and the Rockets became public in May 2019.

Fertitta told reporters he'd made the coach a one-year extension offer with a $5 million base salary and a $1 million incentive for each playoff round Houston won.

"We didn't end extension talks," he said. "Agents' jobs are to play hardball. I made Mike a great extension offer. It was one of the better base salaries in basketball but also had the highest incentives in basketball. Mike could make $4 million in incentives. Business is business. I'm a very incentive-based guy. If you perform, I want you to do unbelievable."

LeGarie later told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that Fertitta's description of the proposal wasn't accurate.

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"I'd like clear up some inaccuracies that were stated about the offer made to Mike," LeGarie said. "The reported $5 million is really $2.5 million because it comes with contingencies. One, it's only $5 million if he makes the playoffs and two, if he is coaching the team at the end of the year."

In the end, Iko and Amick reported the "perceived disrespect" D'Antoni felt from Fertitta was a "major factor" in his decision-making process.

So Houston, which was eliminated from the playoffs in the Western Conference Semifinals by the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, will begin its hunt for a new coach. The superstar tandem of James Harden and Russell Westbrook make it an attractive job.

Meanwhile, D'Antoni could garner ample interest. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers all have head coaching vacancies.