3:04pm: The hiring is official, the team announced via press release.
7:59am: The Sixers have made Mike D’Antoni their associate head coach, two league sources told Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team has yet to make an announcement, but Pompey indicates the hiring has already taken place. He’ll serve as the top aide to Brett Brown, who last week signed an extension that keeps him under contract as Philly’s head coach through 2018/19. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported shortly thereafter that the Sixers were discussing the job of lead assistant with D’Antoni, and the Sixers confirmed those talks to Pompey. TNT’s David Aldridge wrote Monday that the team planned to hire him.
Brown said over the weekend that the addition of the 64-year-old D’Antoni would be a “good thing” and that the team has been looking for a veteran assistant for a while. The pursuit of D’Antoni wasn’t related to the hiring of Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations, Brown also said, though it’s difficult not to see a connection. D’Antoni joined the Suns while Colangelo was still in charge of the team, and the two also worked together with USA Basketball.
The last time D’Antoni served as an assistant, he was working under Frank Johnson on the Suns at the start of the 2003/04 season. Phoenix fired Johnson in December 2003, moving D’Antoni into the head coaching job, and with the addition of point guard Steve Nash in the summer of 2004, the Suns went from out of the playoffs to a Western Conference Finals appearance in one year. Phoenix returned to the conference finals the next season, but D’Antoni’s teams have only won one playoff series since. He moved on in 2008 to the Knicks, but New York only once finished above .500 while he was there, and D’Antoni resigned shortly after the “Linsanity” run of success with Jeremy Lin. He was an unpopular choice as Lakers coach early in the 2012/13 season, when the team chose him over Phil Jackson, and injuries and disappointment marked his brief time in L.A. before he resigned in the spring of 2014. D’Antoni, the 2004/05 Coach of the Year, has a record of 455-426 in the regular season as a head coach, including one season with the Nuggets before he joined the Suns.
He enters another losing situation in Philadelphia, where the Sixers are a dreadful 1-26 amid the radical rebuilding plan that GM Sam Hinkie has been executing, but the team brought in Colangelo to hasten the climb up the standings. D’Antoni will help direct a roster that features only one player older than 25, though Brown believes the Colangelo hire signaled that the team will add more veteran players. The Sixers have been talking to Elton Brand and Shane Battier, according to Aldridge, though it’s unclear whether they envision them for playing, coaching or front office roles.
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