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All About the Coach – Mike D’Antoni

All About the Coach – Mike D’Antoni

‘Seven Second or Less’. That term should definitely remind you of Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash. Together, they perfected the run-and-gun style during their time with the Phoenix Suns.

Years before, D’Antoni started his career as a coach in Italy, for Olimpia Milano. Before becoming their coach, he spent 13 years there during his active career as a player. After seven seasons, he made the step to go to the NBA. The road to becoming a successful head coach, wasn’t an easy road for D’Antoni. He started as the director of player personnel for the Denver Nuggets as well as doing some broadcasting jobs for the network TNT. Thereafter, he became the Nuggets’ head coach for a couple of months, but as he didn’t perform well, he was fired.

It took another three season before D’Antoni tried his hand at another coaching job in the NBA. In the meantime, he was a scout for the Spurs, an assistant for the Trailblazers and the head coach of Benetton Basket in Italy. Finally, the Phoenix Suns gave him the chance to become their assistant-coach. And soon after, he got the head coaching job. At that point, it was already clear that D’Antoni preferred an offense orientated style of play in his team, and the Suns were extremely suitable for that system.

Together with Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, and the rest of the Suns, he perfected the ‘seven seconds or less’ style of play. Nash’s great skills as a point guard, passer and a pick-and-roll player were extremely suitable for this kind of play, and partly because of the system, Nash won two consecutive MVP awards.

The ‘seven seconds or less’ style of play is basically a fast break offense, as the goal is to create a good shot within seven seconds. That way, the defense doesn’t get the time to regroup. Though the team was often criticized for their lack of defense, it was quite entertaining and it brought D’Antoni a coach of the year award. In D’Antoni’s last season as the Suns’ head coach, the Suns decided to trade Marion for Shaquille O’Neal, and this proved to be the end of the ‘seven seconds or less’ era, as O’Neal didn’t fit within the fast break offense. After that season, D’Antoni decided to sign with the Knicks.

Photo: USA Today Sports

Four years later, in November 2012, D’Antoni signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He would be reunited with his former star player, Steve Nash, as Nash had already signed a contract with the Lakers. There, D’Antoni would get another try to implement his fast paced offense, but he did need to make some changes to get that to work. For example, Nash was nearing the end of his career, and D’Antoni decided to make him more of a spot-up shooter, while Kobe Bryant took over more of the ball handling duties. Though the obvious starting five of the Lakers, Bryant, Nash, Gasol, Howard and World Peace, only managed to start 7 times throughout the season, the Lakers did manage to secure a place in the playoffs.

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The next season, after Bryant and Gasol criticized D’Antoni’s preferred style of play, the Lakers had a horrible win-lose percentage, and the Lakers didn’t extend D’Antoni’s contract, D’Antoni resigned as their coach.

It took more than two years, before Mike D’Antoni took another job as a head coach, though he worked as an associate head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers in the meantime. On June 2016, he was named the head coach for the Houston Rockets. He had quite a successful first year with the Rockets, as they played great offensive basketball in the way D’Antoni preferred, and they made it to the Conference Semifinals in the playoffs. He even won the Coach of the Year award for the second time in his career.

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