Celtics

Celtics reportedly interested in Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni for coaching job

D'Antoni recently served as head coach of the Houston Rockets until last season's playoff loss.

Mike D'Antoni Celtics
Mike D'Antoni as coach of the Houston Rockets in 2020. Mark J. Terrill/AP
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You know the old saying: “If you can’t beat ’em, hire one of their assistant coaches to fill your head coaching vacancy.” Or something like that.

The Celtics are reportedly showing interest in hiring Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni for their head coaching job a week after the Nets bounced them from the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz.

D’Antoni’s experience sets him apart from the other hot names associated with the Celtics’ coaching search. He has been an NBA head coach for 16 seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Houston Rockets.

His four-year stint with the Rockets ended last season after a second-round exit in the playoffs. In total, he’s made the playoffs 10 times and has three Conference Finals appearances on his resume. He’s also twice won NBA Coach of the Year honors (2005 and 2017).

D’Antoni’s draw is his ability to maximize teams’ offensive potential, creating spacing for shooters and putting up a lot of points from long range. He also showed he could be adaptable and thrive in today’s “small-ball” NBA, succeeding with players like the 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker at center and surrounding Harden with shooters in Hoston.

His Rockets teams with James Harden at the helm ranked fourth in the NBA on average throughout his tenure. But those teams also didn’t play great defense, with an average defensive ranking of 16th in those four years. That’s not necessarily ideal for a Celtics team that fell off defensively last year (16th in defensive rating) after being an elite defensive team in the years prior.

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Still, D’Antoni might be a longer shot for the head coach opening anyway if the Nets keep rolling through the playoffs. Schultz added the Nets won’t officially grant D’Antoni permission to speak with teams for coaching positions until after the postseason. The Nets, of course, are a favorite to reach the NBA Finals, meaning an interview wouldn’t happen for a while.

Those delays could also affect potential interviews for Sam Cassell, who’s an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers, and Chauncey Billups, an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Celtics will also reportedly consider internal candidates like Jay Larranaga — a betting favorite for the job in some circles — and Jerome Allen, who has already interviewed for the job. Former Celtics assistant and current Duke coach Kara Lawson and San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon might also be in the mix, which would make either of them the first woman head coach in NBA history.

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