Unlike the Nets and Knicks, who have interim head coaches in place, the Rockets aren’t necessarily a lock to conduct a coaching search of their own later this year. However, with Mike D’Antoni in a contract year, there has been plenty of speculation that Houston will go in another direction.
With that in mind, and in the wake of a recent report linking Tom Thibodeau to the Rockets, Kelly Iko, Mo Dakhil, and Sam Amick of The Athletic discussed the situation on Tuesday’s edition of the ‘Brodie and the Beard’ podcast, with Amick suggesting that another former NBA coach – Jeff Van Gundy – has been frequently connected to the Houston job.
“Jeff Van Gundy’s name is the one that I have heard consistently as a very possible replacement for Mike,” Amick said (hat tip to RealGM). “It’s interesting to see Thibs’ name in there now because you’ve got a guy who was Jeff’s top assistant when Jeff was the Rockets’ coach. … Van Gundy and Thibs being from the same tree, whatever happens next, I think you’re starting to get a sense of what might be prioritized. Obviously defense first. Discipline.”
Amick cautioned that there’s no guarantee the Rockets will move on from D’Antoni after the 2019/20 season, especially if the team makes a deep playoff run. However, he does still think this will probably be D’Antoni’s last year in Houston.
“Barring a championship if they do save the season, I do not get the sense that Mike D’Antoni is going to be back,” Amick said. “They’ve had a major divide in the contract negotiations.”
As Amick explains, the decisions to part with Van Gundy in 2007 and to hire D’Antoni in 2016 were largely driven by former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. With the franchise under new ownership and GM Daryl Morey believed to be a fan of Van Gundy – who reportedly received strong consideration from Houston in ’16 before the hiring of D’Antoni – it’s possible a reunion could be in the cards. Van Gundy had a 182-146 (.555) record as coach of the Rockets from 2003-07.
Of course, for that reunion to come to fruition, Van Gundy would have to decide he wants to leave a comfortable broadcasting job with ESPN and ABC to return to coaching. And even then, he’d likely draw interest from other teams — the Knicks and Nets are each believed to have JVG on their list of potential candidates.