Mike D’Antoni spent two years with the Philadelphia 76ers as an associate head coach under Brett Brown. There have been plenty of rumors connecting the recently departed former Houston Rockets coach to Philly, where he’d have the chance to try and figure out how to best utilize stars like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
D’Antoni entered the 2019-20 season as a lame duck coach, with just one year left on his deal. He had a ton of success with James Harden and the Rockets, winning over 68-percent of his regular season games from 2016-20. He couldn’t quite get the team over the hump in the playoffs.
Houston fell in the Western Conference Semifinals three times in his four years, and the conference finals once, in 2018. The first year, they fell victim to the San Antonio Spurs. In 2018 and 2019, they lost in the playoffs to the dynastic Golden State Warriors, taking them to seven games and very nearly winning the conference in 2018. This year, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers knocked them out. Days later, Mike D’Antoni decided to look for other opportunities.
D’Antoni is one of the top offensive minds in the NBA. It would be very interesting to see if he could get this Philadelphia 76ers team, which is as talented as anybody, actually firing on all cylinders. The group, which lacks shooting, isn’t an obvious fit for the long time coach though, in terms of their skill sets. Joel Embiid, Philly’s star center, is on board with the idea though, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) September 24, 2020
Pompey reports that the coaching search, led by general manager Elton Brand, is down to Mike D’Antoni and Ty Lue. It sounds like it may be D’Antoni’s to lose, and if he gets the job, the team will actively look to build a roster more suited for his up-tempo style.
He also says that Joel Embiid has given the hire “his blessing.”
Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.
The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.
On paper, the Sixers are on the precipice of true Eastern Conference contention, with two generational talents in Embiid and Simmons, and a talented group around them. The many have called into question whether the two stars can effectively play together, especially given Simmons’ bizarre reluctance to expand his game and shoot threes.
In D’Antoni’s offense, that won’t fly.
Brett Brown topped out with a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division, and couldn’t get out of the Eastern Conference semifinals, falling to the Boston Celtics 4-1 in 2018, and the eventual world champion Toronto Raptors in seven games last season. This year, the team was swept in the first round by the Celtics.
If D’Antoni gets the nod, it will make for one of the more interesting roster/coach fits we’ve seen in some time. And it would probably give Brand a lot of work to get him a Philadelphia 76ers roster that fits his preferred style of play.