It appears the Nets will lose Mike D’Antoni from their coaching staff after all — just not in the way many presumed.
D’Antoni is stepping away from a full-time role as an assistant (and de facto offensive coordinator) on head coach Steve Nash’s staff, The Post has confirmed. The move was first reported by ESPN.
The Nets had no statement on his departure, though Nash released a statement.
“I would like to thank Mike for everything he did for me, as well as our organization, over the past year,” Nash said. “Having Mike next to me was invaluable as I navigated my first season as head coach.
“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together. Our players and staff all benefited from his time in Brooklyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”
Sources close to the situation told The Post that D’Antoni, who turned 70 in May, is not stepping away because of a health issue. D’Antoni simply didn’t want to spend another year involved in the rigors of assistant coaching, according to ESPN. He could end up in a less strenuous role for 2021-22.
The veteran was a finalist for the Trail Blazers head coaching job this offseason, and ESPN reported that the two-time NBA Coach of the Year is expected to pursue head-coaching jobs in the future.
At this point, it’s unclear what role D’Antoni might serve with the Nets, or who Nash and general manager Sean Marks are lining up to replace him as offensive coordinator. former Thunder assistant Brian Keefe, who coached Kevin Durant, James Harden, Jeff Green, and Nets assistant coach Royal Ivey in OKC — has been mentioned as a possibility by HoopsHype.
What is clear is that this is no retirement.
In the history of the NBA, only two head coaches — current Spurs and Team USA Olympic coach Gregg Popovich and former Knicks coach Hubie Brown — have stayed on the sidelines into their 70s, according to HoopsHype. Despite stepping away from Nash’s staff, however, D’Antoni appears intent on becoming the third.
D’Antoni created the “7 Seconds or Less” attack, which Nash perfected as a player in Phoenix 15 years ago and which became a building block of modern NBA basketball. He also coached Nash and the late Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, current Nets star James Harden and Russell Westbrook with the Rockets and Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks.
D’Antoni has a career record of 718-555, and won Coach of the Year awards in both 2005 and 2017. He was the head coach of the 2012 Olympic team that won gold behind current Nets star Durant. In short, he’s capable not only of working with stars, but also of wringing out their peak offensive performances.
The Nets went into the offseason fearing the loss of up to three assistants. Defensive coordinator Ime Udoka got a long-overdue head-coaching job when he was hired by Brad Stevens to coach the Celtics, and was replaced by former Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool.
Now after losing their other coordinator (though it’s possible he could stay around in some other capacity) only former interim head coach Jacque Vaughn remains from that trio.