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May 26, 2016

Sixers lose top assistant as Mike D’Antoni hired as Rockets head coach

Just like his famous “seven seconds or less” offense, Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni’s time in Philadelphia was quick, lasting only five months. The 65-year-old D’Antoni, who previously was the head coach in Denver, Phoenix, New York, and Los Angeles, has agreed to a four-year deal to coach the Houston Rockets, per Woj and a horde of other reporters.

The first thought that comes to mind has little to do with Brett Brown losing his top assistant. Dwight Howard, the Rockets’ controversial center, notably didn’t care for D’Antoni during their one season in Los Angeles. With D’Antoni still in the fold, Howard left the Lakers to join the Rockets in free agency back in 2013.

Howard has a player option in 2016-17 for $23 million, and with this hire, there’s probably a better chance that he’ll decide to opt out. Considering the choice of D’Antoni, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey might not be opposed to seeing Howard walk. 

It might have been difficult to see (mostly because it wasn’t like the Sixers magically started scoring), but D’Antoni influenced the way that the Sixers played in his short time here. For instance, Brown started incorporating more “pistol” sets after free throws, an offensive set D’Antoni frequently utilized in his other stops. It will be interesting to see if Brown keeps some of those concepts around now that D’Antoni is gone.

Brown and D’Antoni seemed to have a solid rapport, but this still might not be a terrible development for the Sixers head coach. D’Antoni has a long working relationship with Jerry and Bryan Colangelo, and if the Sixers started off this upcoming season struggling more than the front office expected, the possibility of D’Antoni moving one seat over was always going to be in the back of people’s minds, fair or not.

As for a replacement, Woj threw put a pretty interesting name a few days ago: P.J. Carlesimo.

Carlesimo has been out of the NBA since 2012-13, when he took over midseason for Avery Johnson and led the Brooklyn Nets to the playoffs. The 66-year-old has a tie-in with the Sixers, as Carlesimo worked with Brown on Gregg Popovich’s staff for a few years in the mid-2000s.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann