When exactly Mike D’Antoni decided he wasn’t returning to Houston
Shortly after the Houston Rockets’ season ended, Mike D’Antoni announced on Sunday that he would not return to coach the team next season.
The Athletic revealed details of when the two-time NBA Coach of Year made up his mind about not returning to the sidelines for the Rockets. According to the report, D’Antoni expected a call from team owner Tilman Fertitta to come at some point. However, that call didn’t happen during the night of Houston’s elimination from the playoffs.
Sources say D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey met for a late dinner Saturday and conversed before returning to their rooms. By that evening, before D’Antoni went to bed, he had talked with everyone about the team and the season — players and management— but sources say he still hadn’t heard from owner Tilman Fertitta. There was an expectation of a phone call from ownership about the season and a plan to discuss his future upon returning, sources say.
Neither did it happen the morning after before the team’s flight back to Houston. That’s when D’Antoni came to the conclusion that Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers marked his last game with the Rockets.
The team packed the next morning before the afternoon flight that would take it back to Houston. All morning, D’Antoni was expecting a call from Fertitta, but sources say it never came. Before getting onto the plane, sources say D’Antoni’s mind was made up that he wouldn’t be seeking another contract with the Rockets — short or long-term —and would prefer to test the open market. D’Antoni then called LeGarie, sources said, and let him know of his wishes. D’Antoni told LeGarie to deliver the message while the team plane was in the air, sources said.
D’Antoni reportedly informed Daryl Morey and the rest of the players on the team flight about his decision before the plane landed in Houston.
The two-time NBA Coach of the Year, however, reportedly still plans to coach next season. Several teams have coaching vacancies, and they will surely make their calls to land one of the best offensive minds in the game.