Charlotte Hornets: Mike D’Antoni Profile

Nov 6, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike DÕAntoni looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets head coach Mike DÕAntoni looks on during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Charlotte Hornets head coaching search continues to evolve, with leading candidates being identified and interviews being set. ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported yesterday that four candidates, including Mike D’Antoni, were being interviewed by the Hornets.

D’Antoni has an existing relationship with current Hornets General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who held the same position with the Los Angeles Lakers during D’Antoni’s tenure as the Lakers’ head coach from 2012-2014. A two-time recipient of the NBA Coach of the Year award, D’Antoni would join Larry Brown as the second coach in Charlotte’s history to have won the award. D’Antoni’s background includes stops with the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets. He currently serves as a coaching advisor with the New Orleans Pelicans.

D’Antoni is known for his high-paced style of basketball and has had several point guards flourish under his coaching. Steve Nash won consecutive MVP awards under D’Antoni while James Harden also won an MVP while being coached by D’Antoni. Other point guards such as Chris Duhon and Jeremy Lin had their career highs in points and assists while with D’Antoni. With an ascending star in LaMelo Ball, the Hornets may be intrigued by the idea of pairing him with D’Antoni’s offensive genius.

D’Antoni’s defensive coaching acumen has been called into question in the wake of his name being attached to the Hornets job. While coaching the Suns, his teams were average defensively with their defensive rating being 17th, 16th, 15, and 17th in the league from 2004-2008. His Knicks teams were far worse, finishing in the bottom eight in three of four seasons. D’Antoni’s Rockets teams were average except for an outlier performance in 2017-18 in which they finished sixth in defensive rating. For a Hornets team that finished 22nd in defensive rating this past season, D’Antoni’s defensive track record is a valid concern.

D’Antoni’s teams are known for their fast style of play, originating with the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns teams. His teams have finished in the top six in pace in every season except for two; his 2018 and 2019 Rockets teams were 13th and 27th, respectively. The Hornets were fifth in pace this past season, and the personnel is in place to continue running an up-tempo style of offense.

With the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers currently being the only other vacant coaching positions, the Hornets should be able to obtain a quality candidate. The Kings have narrowed their search to Mike Brown, Steve Clifford, and Mark Jackson. Meanwhile, the Lakers are interested in Darvin Ham, who has become the odds-on favorite to land with Los Angeles. There are certainly questions attached to any potential move for D’Antoni. His age (71 years old at the beginning of next season) and his defensive philosophy are valid concerns. However, there is intrigue attached to D’Antoni as well, and if Charlotte decides to move forward, they should be a strong candidate to secure his services.