THE Sports & Swag Report

Why not Mike D’Antoni as next Oklahoma City Thunder head coach?

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First of all, the Oklahoma City Thunder should have never fired Scott Brooks. I mean, the man only guided this team to three Western Conference Finals, and an NBA Finals appearance. The franchise has only been in existence for eight years. Franchises like The Los Angeles Clippers have been in existence for decades and have never had the opportunity to play in a conference final. The Thunder have been to three. Let that sink in. Of course, the talent of current players, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and former players like James Harden had a LOT to do with that success. However, so did Brooks.

Trading away a star like Harden, and Jeff Green has been looked upon as mistakes by the Thunder. However, I’m still not sold that trading Harden wasn’t the right thing to do. What the Thunder received in return for him was the failure. In any case, that falls in the lap of guys like GM Sam Presti. Not Brooks. This franchise deserves admiration for how quickly they’ve become not only relevant, but also borderline dominant in such a short time. However, firing Brooks was a mistake. Especially, after an injury plagued season. But, we all get second chances, to correct mistakes. Most of the time anyway. So, who should be the replacement? Two names that have been mentioned prominently are Kevin Ollie, and Billy Donovan. The Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau has also been mentioned. Of course, he still has a job, and I’m not sure his style of play or his demeanor would fit well with the team already in place. Names like Alvin Gentry should also be on the list as well. But, one name hasn’t been mentioned, and that name is Mike D’Antoni.

The 63-year-old D’Antoni, gets a bad rep for his time coaching the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Probably, rightfully so in New York. Not rightfully so in L.A. The Knicks were bad, with a 121-167 record and they made the playoffs only once in three and a half seasons. He wasn’t any better in L.A. with a 67-87 record in his two seasons there. It wasn’t a good fit, however. An aging Kobe Bryant, a seemingly aging at the time Pau Gasol, and a soon to be unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard with a bad back, and a bad attitude, was never a good mix for D’Antoni’s high-octane style. However, before NYC and L.A. there was Phoenix.

All the Suns did under D’Antoni, who has been an assistant to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on the U.S. Olympic and FIBA World Championship teams since 2006, was win three consecutive Pacific Division titles from 2005-2007, and make two appearances in the Western Conference Finals in his four seasons there. The Suns offense under D’Antoni and point guard Steve Nash was one of the most prolific in NBA history. It’s the defense that wasn’t there. But, who cares when you win the way the Suns won in that time span. One example of a team succeeding with a subpar defense is the 2010 Auburn Tigers. That defense ranked 11th among 12 SEC schools in 2010. But, won the national title. Sure, it’s College Football, but there are similarities. That team led by Cam Newton had an explosive offense that scored so quickly, that it often times put its defense back on the field much too soon. Much like Auburn, The Suns’ up and down pace put it’s defense in bad situations. However, you don’t have that kind of success and not at least make timely stops. Last time I checked Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka can play a little D. So, timely defense would be quite possible.

Then, there’s the offense. Can you imagine Westbrook and Durant in that offense? It could be sick. One of the knocks on Scott Brooks was his unimaginative offense. There is nothing unimaginative about D’antoni’s offense. Plus, D’Antoni has had a relationship with Durant and Russ on the U.S. National teams. This fit makes sense to me. He’s proven he can win big at the highest level with the right players, and he would bring a more exciting brand of basketball to one of the most energetic home crowds in the league. Mike D’Antoni makes a lot of sense in Oklahoma City.

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