D’Antoni has sights on 3 more years minimum

NBA

The Houston Rockets and coach Mike D’Antoni have had preliminary discussions on the framework of a contract extension that would keep the two-time NBA Coach of the Year from entering the final year of his deal.

“I’ve let (GM) Daryl (Morey) and (owner) Tilman (Fertitta) know that I’m energized to keep coaching — and believe that I can continue to do this at a high-level for at least another three years,” D’Antoni, 68, told ESPN on Sunday night.

“I want be part of a championship here.”

It is unclear how significant of a commitment that the Rockets are willing to make to D’Antoni, who told ESPN that he prefers to avoid entering the final year of his contract in 2019-20 without an extension. D’Antoni is entering the final year of his original four-year contract. He’s paid in the $4M annual range, which is less than most of the league’s elite coaches are making in the marketplace.

Fertitta called the Rockets loss in the Western Conference semifinals to the Golden State Warriors, “unacceptable.” Top assistant Jeff Bzdelik — who was talked out of retirement in November to address the team’s defense — was informed by management on Sunday that he wouldn’t offered a new contract. The Rockets defense excelled under Bzdelik. More changes could be made to D’Antoni’s staff, league sources said.

D’Antoni has averaged 58 victories a year in his three seasons with the Rockets, including four playoff series victories and a trip to Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals. The Golden State Warriors eliminated the Rockets in the past two seasons, including a six-game victory in the conference semifinals this month.

“He’s not a lame duck to me.” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle last week. “That’s just a media term. We’re more concerned with making our team better next year. Mike will be here. I like Mike. I think he’s a very good coach. Players like playing for him.

“I keep being told, free agents want to know who the owner is and they want to know who the coach is,” Fertitta said. “Mike and I do well together. Hopefully, we’ll continue to win and Mike will be here for a long time.”

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