D’Antoni tells Rockets he’s not coming back to Houston

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida >> Mike D’Antoni told the Houston Rockets he will not be back as a coach with them next season, essentially opting to return to the club he has spent the past four seasons with .

D’Antoni told the Rockets today – not even a full day after the team’s season ended with a playoff loss against the Los Angeles Lakers – that he would look elsewhere for coaching options for next season and not return to Houston. Team owner Tilman Fertitta confirmed the move.

“I would like to thank Mike D’Antoni and his wife, Laurel, for their incredible contributions to the Houston Rockets organization and the Houston community,” said Fertitta. “Mike is a true professional and has a great basketball spirit. He is a winner and we are blessed to have such an excellent coach and leader to work with for the past four seasons. “

ESPN first reported the 69-year-old coach’s decision.

It was not entirely unexpected; The Rockets and D’Antoni couldn’t agree on an extension last year, meaning he was coaching this season with no guarantee of his future in Houston. D’Antoni had already been named as a potential candidate for vacancies in Indiana and Philadelphia, but when the season ended Saturday night, there seemed to be at least some hope that he would stay in Houston.

“We have a great organization, great city, great fans, team is great,” said D’Antoni after losing Game 5 to the Lakers. “I mean, everything is fine here. We’ll see what happens, but I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I had four years and hopefully it will continue. You just never know.”

But sometime between late Saturday night and early afternoon, he knew it was time to move on.

Houston will become the eighth team to make a coach change since the end of the regular season – March 11 for eight clubs that failed to qualify for the NBA reboot bubble, and mid-August for the league’s 22 other franchises.

In recent weeks, Brooklyn has hired Steve Nash and New York City Tom Thibodeau. Chicago, Indiana, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and now Houston are vacant.

D’Antoni was with the Rockets for four seasons. Houston went 217-101 in its regular season games, a win rate of .682.

The Rockets’ win rate this season – .611 – was the worst of his four-year tenure. He went 28-23 in the playoffs with Houston and was NBA Coach of the Year in 2016-17, his first season with the Rockets.

“Mike has done incredible things here,” Rockets star James Harden said Saturday night, making it clear that he would have liked D’Antoni to return. Houston’s other star, security guard Russell Westbrook, also raved about the type of person D’Antoni, saying he enjoyed his only season playing under him.

D’Antoni has coached 1,199 regular season games across five different franchises, ranging from 672-527. He is a two-time coach of the year and also won the award in 2004-05 after leading Phoenix to a record of 62-20.