The head coaching interest between the Portland Trail Blazers and Mike D’Antoni seems to be reciprocal, as Sam Amick of The Athletic is reporting D’Antoni has “serious interest” in the job.
Amick’s report comes after Jordan Schultz of ESPN reported the Blazers do in fact have interest in the two-time NBA Coach of the Year.
D’Antoni is currently an assistant coach on Steve Nash’s Brooklyn Nets staff and has been believed to have played a strong part in the team’s success and easing his former point guard into the head chair.
Where hiring D’Antoni or the Blazers even having an interest in him comes at a crossroads is it may counter what general manager Neil Olshey told reporters after their season ended.
“We want to improve on the defensive end of the floor, someone with strong leadership qualities, someone who’s going to hold people accountable on both ends of the floor,” Olshey said. “Hopefully, somebody with coaching experience that has hit certain benchmarks.”
Teams historically led by the 70-year-old are either average or below average when it comes to defending their basket.
Bringing in someone who will harp defense is imperative for the Blazers to take the next step. After the season they had the only way now is up, as the team finished 29th in defensive efficiency. The season prior, Portland placed 27th.
As for D’Antoni, his Rockets teams ranked 18th, seventh, 17th, and 15th in defensive rating.
The bar is set high by Olshey, and maybe D’Antoni is their guy, given his historical accomplishments with teams and having them take a step forward.
“Obviously, the bar is pretty high,” Olshey said. “You make the playoffs eight straight years in a row; you make the Western Conference finals two years ago, and we’re looking to improve on that. So, it’s somebody that we’re going to have to feel confident that can make an impact when it comes to outcome, not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs, as well.”