The Charlotte Hornets are looking for a new coach. Since the dismissal of James Borrego, all that has been on the mind of Charlotte fans is who is going to lead this team in a new direction. The Hornets have interviewed numerous candidates, but all the buzz around the team is that the Hornets like two guys in particular – Mike D’Antoni and Darvin Ham. A wildcard name to watch out for is Kenny Atkinson – former coach of the Brooklyn Nets, who helped turn that franchise around. For now we’ll focus on Ham and D’Antoni as they seem to be ahead of Atkinson at the moment.
Both Darvin Ham and Mike D’Antoni have had experience with Hornets’ general manager Mitch Kupchak. When he was in the same role with the Lakers, Kupchak hired Ham as an assistant coach for player development in 2011 before Ham joined Mike Budenholzer’s staff in Atlanta in 2013. He hired D’Antoni as the Lakers head coach in 2012.
What makes Ham appealing is his championship experience as a player and coach. Players relate to Ham well and he has a good relationship with not only his own guys, but players across the NBA. Ham is one of the key reasons why the Bucks have been one of the better defensive teams in the NBA the last few seasons. Charlotte brass has noted that they wanted a coach to hold players accountable and improve defensively, and Ham can bring both to the table. My concerns with Ham is that this will be his first head coaching job, so how much rope will he have with the front office – especially if things don’t turn around initially as the team learns a new staff and schemes? Let’s also be real, Ham is a black coach and we’ve seen traditionally that black coaches aren’t afforded the same amount of patience as their white counterparts
Mike D’Antoni is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the NBA. Under his coaching Steve Nash was a two-time MVP and James Harden won a MVP as well. D’Antoni knows the guard position and will do wonders with LaMelo Ball. Under D’Antoni, LaMelo Ball will be unleashed with no handcuffs. When the Hornets aren’t running, expect D’Antoni to use more pick-n-rolls than they did under James Borrego.
The knock on D’Antoni has been his defense, or lack there of, but many of his best teams have been around the middle of the pack defensively and his best team – the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets – were 7th in defensive rating that season. Under his leadership the 2005 Suns were 18th, 2007 Suns 15th, 2008 Suns 17th, 2017 Rockets 18th, 2018 Rockets 7th and 2019 Rockets were 17th. The last four seasons the Hornets were 23rd, 25th, 16th and 22nd in defensive rating. D’Antoni would need to hire an excellent staff defensively, but he is someone who has previous coaching experience and can take LaMelo Ball to another level.
Some within the Hornets’ community have voiced concerns about D’Antoni’s age. He is 71 years old. Will players buy in? His resume as a coach should speak for itself, but this is a young team.
If you’re the Hornets you have to maximize LaMelo Ball as he heads into year thee. D’Antoni’s track record with guards is proven. If he can get this team to buy in, Charlotte will have a future MVP candidate on its hands.