How Mike D'antoni's success helps Herd

By JPrince83
Jan. 05, 2017

Dan D'antoni (left) and Mike D'antoni (right) sit on the bench of a Los Angeles Lakers game. Mike was the head coach for the Lakers from 2012-2014 while his brother Dan was an assistant with the team.

Former Marshall basketball great Mike D'antoni, the head coach of the NBA's Houston Rockets was named by the league as the NBA's Coach of the Month for December. 

It's really no surprise, as D'antoni's Rockets rattled off 10 consecutive wins to start the month finishing 15-2 overall in December which included wins over Western Conference favorites Golden State and Oklahoma City. The Rockets have thrived offensively in D'antoni's fast-paced system averaging nearly 115 points per game, good for second in the NBA behind the aforementioned Warriors. But during the month of December, the Rockets' offensive production ballooned to 128.7 points per game, thanks to the MVP level play of guard James Harden. 

Harden, who has always been offensively gifted, has seen his efficiency grow while playing in a D'antoni system that seems tailor-made for his skill set. Harden is currently fourth in the NBA in scoring averaging 28.4 a contest while leading the league in assists at 11.9. But, the most telling stat is Harden's league-best efficiency rating of 32.64 putting him just a notch in front of former teammates Russell Westbrook (32.60) and Kevin Durant (30.77). 

All of this adds up to the Rockets having a 27-9 record a major improvement over this point last season when Houston was mired in mediocrity on its way to a 41-41 season. So as the NBA starts to turn toward the second half of the season D'antoni isn't just a Coach of the Month winner, he's the front-runner for the league's Coach of the Year. 

All of this is good for raising the profile of Marshall basketball and not just because D'antoni is one of the Herd's all-time greats but because Marshall is led by D'antoni's brother Dan D'antoni who runs the same type of system Mike has put in place in Houston. Like Mike, Dan wants to play fast and his Herd team puts an emphasis on the 3-point shot. Following an 112-106 loss to Atlantic Coast Conference member Pittsburgh, the elder D'antoni discussed the analytics behind his coaching philosophy to the delight of many members of the basketball media world. 

"The best shot in basketball is the corner three," Dan told a reporter who questioned why the Herd didn't push the ball inside more often against the Panthers. "The next best shot is any other three." 

Ever since the introduction of the 3-pointer in both the NBA (1979-80) and NCAA (1987) the emphasis on its importance has grown and no one has understood that more than the D'antonis' who have always had an affinity for outside jumpers. 

"Mike and I have always played this way," Dan told Herdzone.com's Chuck McGill. "We always took a lot of outside shots. I remember playing Villanova in the NIT in 1967 and they played this zone defense and they would move their defense out and we'd just step back and make them. We ended up winning because they should've kept stepping out, all the way to halfcourt, but they never took us out of our range. The only thing different now is we get an extra point for those outside shots." 

Both the Herd and the Rockets shoot a lot of them. Marshall, which boasts the nation's eighth-best scoring offense averaging more than 88 points per game, has already shot 406 3-pointers, the 16th most of any Division 1 college team. Houston has attempted 1,427, which leads the NBA. 

But, the D'antoni brothers' teams don't just take threes - they make them. The Herd is shooting nearly 40 percent from long range with 157 makes on the season, which is good for 10th in the country and leads Conference USA by far. The next closest CUSA team is Rice with 136 made 3-pointers. The Rockets have the most made deep balls in the NBA with 540 which is good for the league's fifth-best percentage at 37.8 percent. 

"I look at it like poker," Dan said. "They've got a deuce and I've got a three. I win." 

The wins are certainly starting to pile up in Houston and the Herd faithful hope that plenty more will follow in Huntington as the Herd gets into the teeth of its conference schedule. But, Mike D'antoni's success with the Rockets only bodes well for Marshall, as potential recruits can see some proof in the pudding.

After all, what high school star wouldn't want to come play for a D'antoni, in a system that can prime them for play at the next level? Marshall still isn't going to be in line for many McDonald All-Americans if any, but there are plenty of talented players out there who aren't getting looks from the traditional powers like Duke and Kentucky, that might give the Herd more of a look than they would have in the past. As Mike's resurgent success at basketball's top level grows, that can only spell positives for Marshall basketball and brother Dan.