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Report: Mike D’Antoni in “strong position” to be next Hornets coach

Coach Mike D'Antoni at Houston Rockets v Charlotte Hornets

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 27: Head coach Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets watches on before their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on February 27, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Apparently, concerns about the defense are not the primary drivers of the coaching search in Charlotte.

The temptations of putting All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball and his creative playmaking in a Mike D’Antoni system may be too much for the Hornets to resist. Echoing earlier reports, Marc Stein says in his latest newsletter Mike D’Antoni is in a “strong position” to be the next head coach in Charlotte.

...there is ongoing buzz in league coaching circles that Mike D’Antoni is in a strong position to land the Charlotte Hornets’ head coaching job. Defensive issues were said to be a key element of James Borrego’s unexpected downfall after four solid seasons, but Charlotte is nonetheless said to want a veteran coach who can forge a strong connection with All-Star guard LaMelo Ball, who would presumably thrive in an offense D’Antoni surely tailors around him completely. Another factor in D’Antoni’s favor despite his reputed aversion to defensive matters: Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak already hired D’Antoni once with the Lakers.

D’Antoni has evolved as a coach since the seven-seconds-or-less Suns and even since his time with Kupchak and the Lakers. With the Rockets, he built a successful James Harden-centric offense (until walking away following a contract dispute). If he put together something similar around Ball, the Hornets could improve and become the most entertaining team in the league.

Charlotte already had a top-10 offense last season, it was the bottom-10 defense that relegated them in the play-in games (and getting blown out by the Hawks). Kupchak would likely force D’Antoni to hire a solid defensive lead assistant coach, essentially making that person a defensive coordinator.

Is Kupchak being this involved in the coaching search a sign he is not leaving the team? Picking the coach then walking away and forcing a new GM to live with his choice is, at best, unconventional. It’s not something Michael Jordan should allow — a new GM should get to pick his coach. Maybe it means Kupchak is sticking around a while.

And working with D’Antoni.