With Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni a free agent following the this season, there’s been a lot of questions about if he would return. If the Rockets fall short of a title (when and if the NBA returns), is he asked back by the franchise? More importantly, does he even want to come back? Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta has mentioned bringing D’Antoni back, but the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on an extension, so who knows what happens in the offseason?
Well, we’re now getting one of our first rumors of a potential replacement. According to Mark Berman at the New York Post, the Rockets will be interested in former Houston defensive assistant under Jeff Van Gundy and ex-head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, Tom Thibodeau, who has recently expressed interest in returning to coaching.
Thibodeau built a reputation as a defensive guru under Van Gundy, first with the New York Knicks and then with Houston, where he helped lead the Rockets to top-five rankings in points allowed and defensive rating from 2004-2007.
Thibodeau then left for Boston, where he worked as an assistant for the Celtics before taking the head coaching job for the Bulls in 2010. He would win Coach of the Year honors in 2011 after leading Chicago to 62 wins and the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thibodeau then went on to coach the Timberwolves, where he led the franchise to their first playoff appearance in 14 seasons. He was also President of Basketball Operations and later took significant criticism for his handling of the Jimmy Butler situation. Thibodeau was fired in January 2019.
He’s built a reputation as a defensive-minded coach and a great teacher, but also somewhat of a my-way-or-the-highway hardass (cultivated under the similar Van Gundy), though despite the bungling of the Butler sitch, many players have spoken highly of working with him.
This would be quite the 180 for the Rockets should they be chasing Thibodeau, as D’Antoni built his reputation primarily as an offensive specialist, but the Rockets have been known for drastic changes in the past, moving from the defensive-minded Van Gundy to the offense-centric Rick Adelman, to player’s coach Kevin McHale and then to D’Antoni.
Berman also mentions that the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are also interested in Thibodeau.