Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters this week that a failed effort this postseason won’t take a thing away from what they accomplished during the regular season.
It’s precisely that thinking that leads to crushing defeats in the playoffs.
For the record, D'Antoni is an accomplished head coach, and no doubt a superior basketball mind. He's worked in way too many places and had too much success for him to be considered a total failure at this level.
Ultimately though, we judge successes -- in every industry or endeavor -- by the amount of titles you own, the rate of achievements and the consistency with which you prove to be better than those in your way.
D'Antoni has been courtside on the NBA floor, in various ports, since 1997 when he began working for the Denver Nuggets. He assumed the mantle of head coach in 1998, where he failed badly, winning only 14 games from 50.
He stepped away from coaching in the pressure cooker known as the NBA for four years before returning, this time in Phoenix in 2002. There, he led the Suns to back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2006 before a second-round defeat in 2007 and an early exit from the 2008 playoffs led to his departure.
D'Antoni then coached the New York Knicks, where he led the team to only one playoff appearance in more than three seasons on the job.
Then, it was on to the bright lights of Los Angeles, where he took over a fractured and divided Lakers locker room. He clearly had issues with some of the talent on the roster, not to mention the folks in the front office. D'Antoni's time with the Lakers was equal parts tumultuous and unsuccessful.
Now in his second season as coach of the Rockets, D'Antoni is going to hear the whispers of his past.
The ghosts of prior playoff experiences.
He's going to be reminded of his 32-38 record in the postseason. He's going to be asked about getting over the hump if you will. He's going to be compared to other coaches in the Western Conference (namely Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr) with better achievements and glossier résumés.
This isn't by any means a prediction of what's going to happen in the NBA postseason, which begins this weekend. This may be the best team D'Antoni has ever coached, and if you could ever find a story to cheer for, it would be this one.
But I've seen this story before. I've watched it too many times, and when D'Antoni starts talking about how the postseason achievements shouldn't be viewed in the same light as any future goals, you're already chalking one up to the cruel hand of fate.
There's no question the regular season is a grind, but the success of sports teams is judged by championships, not by setting the bar only a bit off the ground.