- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Of all of Mike D’Antoni’s strengths, the Houston Rockets valued his experience above all else.

Houston introduced D’Antoni as their new coach on Wednesday with owner Leslie Alexander saying they wanted someone who could win now instead of a younger coach who would have to grow with the team.

“We want to win all the time every year and try for a championship at all times,” Alexander said. “We wanted somebody that was a master of the craft.”

The 65-year-old D’Antoni, who spent last season as the associate head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, has previously coached the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

He inherits a team led by James Harden that was ousted by Golden State in the first round of the playoffs this season after reaching the Western Conference Finals a year ago. The Rockets fired Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff went 37-34 after his dismissal.

“We have James Harden in his prime. We’re building this for a championship run,” general manager Daryl Morey said. “I think a lot of times when organizations make coaching changes they tend to go out and try and hire everything they think the last guy wasn’t. And we wanted to make a smooth transition.”

Alexander has long coveted D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense and can’t wait to see it in place in Houston.

“I always wanted to play this way,” Alexander said. “The three top teams in the West, they all play that way. If you don’t play that way you’re not going to win.”

Rockets center Dwight Howard is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. It will be up to D’Antoni and Morey to surround Harden with a mix of players to get Houston back to top status in the West.

D’Antoni raved about Harden often throughout his introductory news conference and said the four-time All-Star was the biggest reason he wanted to coach in Houston.

“The most attractive thing is you have a star player with good players around him with ownership and the GM committed to a style of play you want to play,” he said. “Great facilities - there’s really no negatives. None. It’s a no brainer.”

Most of D’Antoni’s success came in his five seasons in Phoenix where his teams won 54 or more games in four straight seasons, including more than 60 twice. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2005 after leading the Suns to a 62-20 record and a trip to the Western Conference Finals in his second season there. The Suns also advanced to the Western Conference Finals the following season before winning 61 games in 2007 but being eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals.

After a first-round ouster in the postseason in 2008, he left to coach the Knicks but he was unable to replicate the success he found in Phoenix. He had just one winning season in his first three years there before resigning midway through the 2011-12 season. He took over in Los Angeles 10 games into the next season and went 67-87 over the next two years before also stepping down from that post.

He hoped he’d get another chance to be an NBA head coach, but wasn’t sure if he’d get it.

“As one of the last shots that I’ll have going forward that’s why I wanted this chance to be able to get it all right,” he said. “Try to get to my vision that I think of how basketball should be played and I think we can win that way and I’m going to do everything I can to make it successful.”

While lauded for his innovative, up-tempo offense, some questioned his hiring because his teams have never been known for their defense. He addressed that issue by bringing in Jeff Bzdelik as an assistant to handle the defense. Bzdelik has been an assistant with the Grizzlies since 2014.

D’Antoni said he’s spoken to all of the Rockets who are currently in the country and that he’s looking forward to getting “to know the players and their mindsets and kind of what went wrong.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide