HUNTINGTON — It is common for Marshall men’s basketball coach Dan D’Antoni to veer off toward the crowd and speak with those in attendance as workouts are playing out on the court.
Thursday’s workout, however, was a little bit different — a little more special — for D’Antoni.
On this day, when D’Antoni ventured over to the sidelines, he was speaking to his family.
Mike D’Antoni is better known as the head coach of the NBA’s Houston Rockets while Mark D’Antoni, a Charleston-area lawyer, celebrated being named to the 2020 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America” on Thursday.
As prestigious as both titles are, to Dan D’Antoni, they hold a much bigger title: brother.
With the business side of life being demanding for each, it is rare that the D’Antoni siblings get to sit down for a day together, which makes those days extremely valuable. Sister Kathy also joined in for a while before leaving the brothers to talk the same thing she had heard them talk about passionately for decades: basketball.
“There’s no use talking about anything else,” Dan D’Antoni said. “We don’t know how to do anything else. That’s all we do.”
“You don’t know how to do anything else,” Mike D’Antoni chimed in. “I’m very good at doing other things.”
“He’s very good at ordering Starbucks,” Dan D’Antoni retorted.
In his easy-going manner, Mike just smiled.
“Yeah, I’m good at that, too.”
Dan followed with the last word.
“It’s like my daughter said, ‘Dad, you’re a one-trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick.’ ”
The basketball talk and barbs were just like old times for the D’Antoni boys on Thursday with three main concepts: family, basketball and fun.
It seems all so simple, but that has been the key to success over the years. That is also evidenced with Mark’s son, Parker D’Antoni, who has helped out the Marshall men’s basketball team in many capacities since Dan D’Antoni started his tenure with the Thundering Herd.
“That’s just who we are,” Dan D’Antoni said. “We’re not trying to fool anybody or blow any smoke. That’s the way it is and I’m proud of it.”
It’s also another reason why Thursday became so special.
In late September, Dan D’Antoni will lead Marshall as it opens its full-scale preseason practice and, within two days of that, Mike D’Antoni will start prepping his Houston Rockets for the 2019-20 season, which starts with a Sept. 30 matchup against the Shanghai Sharks during the 2019 NBA Global Games.
With Dan at 72 years old and Mike now 68, none of those days are taken for granted.
“Obviously, when Mike and I coached together 10 years ago, it was easier because we were both there every day,” Dan D’Antoni said. “Now, he’s got a lot of work, I’ve got a lot of work and you still need space. We talk daily on the phone, but as far as physical eye-to-eye, face-to-face, not nearly as much as I would like.”
“Summertime, a couple of times, three times, but everybody has something to do, which is good,” Mike D’Antoni said. “Just whenever we can, we make the most of it.”
As the trio of D’Antoni brothers chatted it up at Thursday’s workout, they discussed different topics — mainly 7-foot freshman Goran Miladinovic and 6-foot-7 freshman guard Marko Sarenac, who were taking part in Marshall’s workout.
Just as family is important to the D’Antonis, it is just as important within a basketball team, which is what has brought success for Dan D’Antoni with the Herd.
Dan D’Antoni believes in his scheme and everyone associated with the team has married into the concepts as well. With everyone bought in for one cause, that has led to success for Marshall, which the older D’Antoni said is evident by the 30 to 40 fans that come to Marshall’s workouts each day.
Mike is also proud to see his brother’s success at their alma mater because it has also brought him closer to the Marshall family again.
“The biggest thing is the enthusiasm that he generates,” Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s half the battle. Obviously, he’s recruited some really good players and it looks like the next four years, they are pretty stocked. It’s come a long ways and I know he wants to go a long ways more, so it’s exciting.”
On the basketball floor, the D’Antoni brothers are very similar, which was evident as both struggled to find something about them that is different philosophically. After pining over the thought for a second, Dan D’Antoni said there was only one major difference between the two before a smile came across his face.
“The only difference between us is that he got to the table faster than me,” Dan D’Antoni said. “He ate more and got longer and taller, which stunted my growth and abilities. As far as the game, I think we both played as hard as we can and do the best we can. We practice hard and prepare hard. The attitude, focus and how we prepare for the game is the same.”
As the group took part in the day, Mike and Dan D’Antoni were joined by Jack McCallum, a longtime Sports Illustrated writer who also wrote the book “Seven Seconds or Less,” which is based on the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns. A film crew from Sports Illustrated accompanied McCallum for an upcoming piece.