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Rumor: Jeff Van Gundy could replace Mike D’Antoni as Rockets coach

Jeff Van Gundy

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18: ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy looks on prior to the game between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on December 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is in the final season of his contract. Extension negotiations last summer got messy. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has set the NBA Finals as a bar, and D’Antoni hasn’t guided Houston past the conference finals.

Tom Thibodeau has emerged as a possible replacement.

There’s even more buzz around Jeff Van Gundy.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

As I reported a couple months ago, barring a championship, if they do save the season, I do not get the sense that Mike D’Antoni is going to be back. They’ve had a major divide in the contract negotiations. I’m always cautious when it comes to reporting. So, I’m going to throw in the never say never. Pro sports is a crazy thing. You know what I mean? But the information that we’ve constantly heard is that that bridge, for the most part, has been burned, and now they’re just kind of mutually agreeing to make the best of the time they have together.
Jeff Van Gundy’s name is the one that I had heard consistently as a very possible replacement for Mike.

Van Gundy previously coached Houston from 2003-07. According to Amick, former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was behind firing Van Gundy. Van Gundy was a candidate for the Houston job in 2016 and reportedly favored by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey with Alexander objecting. Now, Alexander is out of the picture.

Since last coaching in 2007, Van Gundy has also resisted interest elsewhere, instead opting to stay at ESPN. But he recently coached the United States in World Cup qualifying. Perhaps, that signals renewed interest in returning to an NBA sideline.

So, this makes some sense from both sides.

A big complication: Will Morey remain with Houston? The Rockets could undergo a larger overhaul than just the coach.

Houston is a prime job with James Harden and Russell Westbrook still in their primes. This will be an attractive job, no matter who’s running the front office.