Mike D’Antoni becomes dark horse candidate for Pelicans head coaching job
Alvin Gentry is out as New Orleans Pelicans head coach, as was reported on Saturday, following the Western Conference team’s poor showing in the NBA’s Orlando bubble. Could Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni enter the fray next?
According to NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin on Twitter, responding to podcaster Danny Leroux’s suggestion of a marriage between D’Antoni and the Pelicans, there is “something to watch” between the two parties.
I mentioned this on the radio in New Orleans yesterday. D'Antoni to the Pelicans (after the Rockets are eliminated) is something to watch. https://t.co/0ZMTmA4MCo
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) August 15, 2020
Helin did not follow up with further information about the rumor, but there has been talk all season long that D’Antoni, a two-time Coach of the Year winner, and the Rockets are heading to a divorce.
D’Antoni, 69, was named head coach of the Rockets in June 2016, since leading the star-studded cast, with James Harden at the top, to three consecutive 50-plus win seasons, including a 2019-20 campaign that saw 44-28 record (.611) in 72 games—equivalent to a 50-win season in the coronavirus-shortened campaign. D’Antoni’s contract with Houston is set to expire at the end of the season with no extension between the coach and management agreed upon.
The Pelicans had Gentry coach for the past five seasons with only one winning season and a single playoff berth (in 2017-18 led by All-Star power forward Anthony Davis and a second-round exit). After a troubling season with rookie Zion Williamson in tow and an only 2-6 bubble showing, Gentry was terminated from his post.
It’s unclear whether D’Antoni has interest in the Pelicans job or not, but the entire season appeared to be his last go-around with the Rockets, leaving the door wide open for him to coach Williamson and an exciting Pelicans roster, which also includes first-time All-Star and Most Improved Player candidate forward Brandon Ingram (who is a restricted free agent this offseason).
Gentry previously served as an assistant coach to D’Antoni in Phoenix from 2004-08 before the latter went to the New York Knicks and the former went on to coach the Suns for four-plus seasons.