Mike D’Antoni isn’t done yet.
The Rockets and their coach have begun preliminary discussions on a contract extension that would prevent the 68-year-old from entering the final year of his deal.
In fact, D’Antoni told Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey he intends to remain at the helm for at least three more seasons.
“I’ve let [general manager] Daryl [Morey] and [team 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. “I want to be a part of a championship here.”
D’Antoni added he prefers to avoid entering the final year of his original four-year contract in 2019-20 without an extension, and Fertitta made an extension seem likely in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle.
“He’s not a lame duck to me. That’s just a media term. That’s just a media buzzword,” Fertitta said. “We’ll sit down with Mike in the next few weeks and talk with him. 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. Mike and I do well together. Hopefully, we’ll continue to win and Mike will be here for a long time.”
The Rockets exited the NBA playoffs earlier this month at the hands of the Warriors for the fourth time in five years, though the team’s top executives remain optimistic about breaking that cycle soon.
“I know that we’re going to rise to the occasion and our time is going to come,” Fertitta said at the time. “I can promise you, we’re going to win some championships with James Harden, because we are not going to sit here. We will go to battle every year.
“We’re going to have a strong offseason, and we’re going to do whatever we can to be a better team. We are not going to sit on our hands, I can promise you that.”
The Rockets have won no fewer than 53 games since D’antonio took over in 2016 and set a franchise record for wins in a season in 2017-18 when they finished 65-17.