Since being ousted in five games by the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni will be searching for a new home. The 68-year-old will test the market after electing not to renew his tender with the franchise.
While his departure wasn’t surprising after failing to reach a contract extension back in May of 2019, his announcement on the team plane raised eyebrows. Sam Amick of The Athletic took to Twitter offer some insight.
Why did Mike D’Antoni green-light the dramatic announcement of his Rockets departure while he was flying with his (former) team? Because a certain phone call never came.
Details on a hoops divorce that never needed to happen, w/ @KellyIkoNBAhttps://t.co/2itfrvyf4M
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) September 15, 2020
Insight on Mike D’Antoni’s Departure From the Houston Rockets
Rocky From the Start
In May of 2019, negotiations between D’Antoni’s representation and owner Tillman Fertitta came to a halt. D’Antoni desired a three-year extension, however, was offered a one-year deal.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported details of the offer.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said D'Antoni was offered a $5 million one-year extension with an additional $1 million per round he won. The base salary is a slight raise, but under the current market of recent veteran coaches (Stotts, Casey, etc.)
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 30, 2019
D’Antoni is one of the most successful NBA coaches in history and an offensive genius. He pioneered the seven seconds or less offense and highlighted the importance of space and pace in the NBA. After three years of deep playoff runs with the Rockets, it was a move that took pundits by surprise.
Inside Contract Negotiations
During extension talks, Fertitta and D’Antoni understandably clashed heads regarding the nature of the contract. The West Virginian native was offered a deal below the likes of Scott Brooks (Washington Wizards) and Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City). One-year deals for veteran coaches are unheard of. D’Antoni had multiple successful seasons in a row, so this came off as an insult to him.
To make matters worse, there were also threats of legal action against Fertitta by D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie. During talks, Fertitta was leveraging D’Antoni’s age to avoid a long-term commitment. The Age Discrimination Employment Act (1967) prevents the use of age against an employee prompting Morey to remind Fertitta of his illegal conduct.
Contract talks ended with no agreement on an extension.
The Call Never Came
Following elimination, Amick and Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported Morey and D’Antoni met to discuss the future. The pair left optimistic with Morey prioritizing D’Antoni’s return. However, the 68-year-old did not hear from Fertitta following elimination but expected a call prior to the team’s departure.
Fast forward to moments before leaving Disney, Fertitta failed to make contact. Infuriated by the disrespect, the 68-year-old made the decision not to return. LeGarie contacted ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski to break the news.
What’s Next for Mike D’Antoni?
D’Antoni is an excellent coach who amassed an incredible 217-101 regular-season record in the last four years. Philadelphia, Indiana, New Orleans, Chicago, and Oklahoma City are searching for their next Head Coach so he will have options.
The 68-year-old will meet with 76ers General Manager Elton Brand to discuss the optics of a potential deal. Philadelphia fired Brett Brown after losing to Boston in four games.
D’Antoni will be considered among a group of candidates for the Philadelphia 76ers coaching opening, sources tell ESPN. D'Antoni was an assistant for several months under Brett Brown before accepting the Rockets job four years ago. https://t.co/MeoUrwWADm
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 13, 2020
One thing working in D’Antoni’s favor is his connection to the franchise. As Woj reports, D’Antoni was an assistant Head Coach prior to accepting his role with Houston.
Despite a successful tender with the Houston Rockets, all good things must come to an end. D’Antoni will be a busy man in the coming months and will have a myriad of options.
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