Even though rumors of a split have been circulating for more than a year, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told Mark Medina of USA Today the team will prioritize a new deal with coach Mike D’Antoni.
“It’s probably No. 1. That’s a fair way to put it,” Morey said. “We have all our key players signed. I think Mike coming back is super important.”
D’Antoni is in the final year of his contract and his departure seemed inevitable after the organization was unable to get him to agree to a new contract last summer. Owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly insisted on a one-year deal, which didn’t interest D’Antoni.
Morey dismissed the idea of an impending coaching change as “a media creation,” adding that “it’s convenient for agents to focus on it.” There is already speculation that other organizations would be interested in D’Antoni if he doesn’t return to Houston, specifically the Pelicans, whose head of basketball operations David Griffin worked with D’Antoni in Phoenix, and the Pacers, who fired Nate McMillan this week.
D’Antoni is in his fourth year with the Rockets and has led them to a 217-101 record with at least one playoff series win each season. His fate might have been sealed if Houston had lost Game 7 to the Thunder, but they now hold a 1-0 lead over the top-seeded Lakers and the organization and players are expressing confidence in their coach.
“Mike is a guy that gets along with everybody, and it’s all up for the players to hone in and do what we need to do,” Eric Gordon said. “He gives us the opportunity. He’s a great communicator. So he gives us a lot of options that we feel like we need to do.”