Just when you thought the most hectic Sixers week in recent memory was over, another plot twist! Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a bomb as Friday turned to Saturday in the Delaware Valley, revealing that the Sixers front office is discussing a coaching role for Seven Seconds or Less mogul Mike D'Antoni.
Per Woj's report:
New Philadelphia 76ers chairman Jerry Colangelo is beginning to impose his influence on the franchise, engaging Mike D'Antoni in talks to join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
D'Antoni, a four-time head coach in the NBA, has been discussing with Colangelo and Brown a role on the Sixers' bench that could begin later this month, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The timing of Brown's two-year extension on Friday, a deal that extends through the end of the 2018-19 season, has apparently eased any concerns that D'Antoni would be brought to the Sixers as some kind of head coach in waiting. D'Antoni wants to be a head coach again, and his candidacy elsewhere could be enhanced if he's back on a bench in a coaching capacity.
This certainly jives with what we were told at the front office powwow on Monday evening. The Sixers are actively looking for ways to help speed up the rebuild, and as Sam Hinkie said directly, always looking for more intelligent voices to prompt discussion and improvement.
You'd be hard pressed to find a glitzier name willing to join the Sixers coaching staff at the moment. D'Antoni's legacy speaks for itself, even if his post-Suns coaching stops with the Knicks and Lakers haven't exactly draped him in glory. He deserves a lot of credit as a pioneer of the small-ball, three-point heavy movement that has taken the league by storm; his SSOL Suns teams were well ahead of the pack on that front.
Brett Brown routinely states that he wants to play up-tempo, and there's nobody better to aid him in that quest. The Sixers guard play has been a constant point of criticism since MCW was shipped to Milwaukee, and D'Antoni should help get the best out of the guys in place. Kendall Marshall thrived under him with the Lakers in 2013-14 -- offensively, anyway -- so look for that magic to be distributed to the rest of the point guard oligarchy.
His addition to the coaching staff certainly garners a few questions, however.
As with Jerry Colangelo, it's doubtful that D'Antoni is coming here to be a token figure. If in fact he wants another shot at a head coaching role, as suggested by Woj, it's hard to believe that someone else hasn't already approached him with a similar opportunity. Colangelo's ties to him through USA Basketball could indeed be the difference, but choosing Philadelphia raises a few eyebrows. Most assistants that leap to head coach jobs are plucked off staffs of contenders, even in the case of a guy like New Orleans' Alvin Gentry, who had previous head coaching experience.
More interestingly, it's a fascinating development for the team's current best player, Jahlil Okafor, a player model for whom D'Antoni does not hold much reverence.
Our own Jake Fischer talked to him in October for Sports Illustrated -- you should really read the whole interview -- and gleaned this bit out of him regarding post-up offense.
SI.com: I read about the presentation you gave during the Las Vegas Summer League and, essentially, you said to build a team's offensive attack around a post player playing with his back to the basket is wasting an opportunity offensively. Why do you think that?
D'Antoni: If you look at the stats around the league, a post-up is not a very good shot. [Laughs] It just isn't. Now again, in our business and leagues, a lot of times you say something and people take that as 100%: You're always going to have post-ups and you're always going to have 15-foot shots. They have not become the best shots. The best shots are layups and foul shots and three-point shots. So you try to gear your offense to where you can exploit those three things. And then, other teams are smart: They run you off the three so you have to shoot a 15-footer, or you can get a mismatch inside where you can post-up, and when you get a mismatch, you have to exploit that. But to go down and put your best offensive player on the block against their best defensive player, it's just not a great option anymore. It just isn't.
It's early to read too much into it, but this isn't a ringing endorsement for the style of play that Okafor is known for. Granted, he has been effective when the Sixers perimeter players have set him up properly in the post -- he's shooting 59.5 percent on what the NBA stats database designates "post touches" -- and efficient offense is what any coach is about first and foremost. Off the rip, it just seems like an awkward marriage. This could mean nothing, but if Okafor is the odd man out in a major shakeup over the coming months, you can point to this as a harbinger*.
At minimum, Colangelo is signaling quickly and loudly that there's a new sheriff in town. After being frozen out on scoops for most of Hinkie's tenure, Woj has broken major team news twice in less than 12 hours. Hinkie is out doing interviews with ESPN. What A Time To Be Alive.
There's plenty to be wary about with the new front office setup, but bolstering the coaching staff with a mind of D'Antoni's caliber is gold Jerry, gold.
*This assumes a deal gets done at all. D'Antoni hasn't been hired officially as of yet; stay tuned on that front.