Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It seems his experience as a member of the
2012 United States Men's basketball coaching staff at this year's Olympics may
have altered Mike D'Antoni's future plans.
The former NBA Coach of the Year told a newspaper in Arizona earlier this week
that he would be interested in returning to coaching, but in the college ranks
rather than in the NBA where he has coached for the better part of the last 15
D'Antoni is currently an assistant coach for the powerhouse U.S. men's Olympic
team that while filled with NBA stars, is led primarily by college coaches.
This includes head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the all-time wins leader in NCAA
Division I history and fellow assistant Jim Boeheim, who heads perennial NCAA
After a stunningly successful tenure with the Phoenix Suns from 2003-2008,
D'Antoni took on arguably the most high profile coaching job in the NBA
becoming the head coach of the New York Knicks. D'Antoni's time with the Knicks
was less successful than with the Suns as he compiled a record of 121-167 over
three plus seasons.
D'Antoni was at the helm when Jeremy Lin burst on to the scene earlier this
year but resigned, with speculation that he was forced out due to a rift with
star forward Carmelo Anthony, midway through the lockout-shortened season.
Now D'Antoni remains as one of the most high-profile coaches on the market for
teams potentially looking to fill the seat at the top of the bench. A college
program would more than likely leap at the chance to grab such a recognizable
coach especially with D'Antoni's track record.
Like Southern Methodist's hiring of Larry Brown, D'Antoni could bring a level
of hype and attention to a smaller program looking to make a splash on the
national scene with the aim of attracting recruits and improving wins and
losses as well.
In comparison to Brown, D'Antoni also has a better shot at a higher profile
job. Although Brown certainly still has the coaching chops, his age is
a concern for programs that don't need more publicity but want a coach they can
install for a long period of time. At 61, D'Antoni is 11 years Brown's junior
and if the fit is right, could be coaching for another 10 or 15 years.
D'Antoni's would also be an important hire in terms of recruiting, especially
among blue-chip talent that wants to be put in the best position possible to
make the leap to the pros.
In an era where college players more and more frequently leave for professional
opportunities, the recruiting of top level talent has become even more
important and difficult. Last season John Calipari, head coach at Kentucky, led
a team that started four freshman to a national title only to have his entire
starting five get selected in the NBA Draft two months later.
Whether or not the one-and-done recruiting strategy is right or wrong is
besides the point. That is where college basketball is and with his experience
in the NBA, D'Antoni could be an invaluable recruiter, enticing high school
athletes with his resume.
Recruiting and bringing attention to a program is one thing but no coach can
survive if they do not bring success on the court as well. Which begs the
question; would D'Antoni's coaching philosophy be effective in the college
While with the Phoenix Suns, D'Antoni was known for the high octane offense
that centered around star point guard Steve Nash. The so-called "seven seconds
or less" offense is predicated on strong point guard play, the high pick-and-
roll and the spreading of the floor for shooters. In the college game this
strategy could be extremely effective, assuming D'Antoni is able to
successfully recruit the types of players that excel within that system. The
effectiveness of the scheme would more than likely also benefit from the drop
in the level of competition and defensive physicality of the college game in
comparison to the NBA.
One of the bigger knocks on D'Antoni has been his perceived defensive
inefficiencies. Even during his successful years with Phoenix, his squads were
always at the bottom of the NBA in terms of points allowed per game, including
ranking dead-last in the NBA during the 2004-2005 season, which was the same
year D'Antoni took home coach of the year honors.
Defense is still a vital aspect of the game in college but with less isolation
plays and fewer athletes on opposing teams that may be able to keep up with
the pace D'Antoni likes his teams to run at, the disparity between his offense
and defense should be less drastic.
So on paper it would seem that D'Antoni would make a very nice transition into
the college game. It remains to be seen how serious his intentions are though.
The NBA coaching carousel is constantly spinning with openings popping up
almost monthly. With the hiring of Jacque Vaughn by the Orlando Magic last week
all 30 teams currently have a head coach but it's only a matter of time before
a spot opens up. When that time comes if teams come knocking would D'Antoni
pick college over another shot in the pros?
For now D'Antoni will focus on coaching the offense for the Olympic team in
its pursuit of back-to-back gold medals. While he's doing so he need only look
down the bench to see what success in college coaching can lead to.
The Sports Network