Bigger than basketball

Mike D'Antoni speaks out on John Lewis' legacy and voting rights

Photo via: Salman Ali.

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni came to his media availability Thursday afternoon dawning another "Vote" t-shirt. It's part of an ongoing trend that the 69-year-old head coach started after Civil Rights icon John Lewis passed nearly two weeks ago.

"I have people send them to me and I appreciate it," said D'Antoni, smiling. "There's a lot of people concerned about what's going on and the only way anything get[s] changed is voting."

Lewis' funeral was nationally broadcasted Thursday morning from Atlanta, Georgia and former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were all in attendance and gave moving speeches and tributes. In light of this, D'Antoni was asked Thursday afternoon about Lewis' legacy and work on important issues such as voting rights.

"It's fundamental to our democracy," said D'Antoni. "One thing that's not talked about - we don't vote in mass enough. The percentage is way too low. [There are] too many obstacles put in front of people to deny them their constitutional right to vote. We have to strive to do better. His whole life was dedicated to that. And it'd be a great tribute to him to pass the Voter Act in his name that's on the Senate's desk and get it right."

The bill D'Antoni is referring to is H.R. 4, a measure to restore key elements of the Voting Rights Act that Lewis was instrumental to getting passed in 1965. The Act was stripped down in 2013 by the Supreme Court and since then, lawmakers in Washington have made several, organized pushes to restore those important provisions. After Lewis passed away, there was a new wave of energy to turn that bill into law and the House of Representatives even approved a proposal to rename the legislation after John Lewis. However, the bill has yet to be passed.

"Why are we even squabbling?" asked D'Antoni. "Why are we even having this discussion in a democracy where everybody has the right to vote and vote freely. [Do] whatever it takes - whether it's a expanded days [to vote] to make it easier for people, whether it's a national holiday. Whatever it takes to get every citizen the right to vote shouldn't be a discussion and it should already be done."

Several NBA players have taken on social causes that they feel strongly about in the Orlando bubble, including justice for the killing of 26-year-old Kentucky woman Breonna Taylor. While D'Antoni has generally not spoken out on social causes, he's been pretty skillful and vocal about voting rights while in Orlando.

"Again, when somebody has to devote their whole life's work to that, there's something wrong with what's going on," continued D'Antoni. "And this is what we're talking about. Hopefully we're all striving to get a more perfect union. You can't do that when there's racial injustice against the poor, whatever it is. We're not doing real well right now in how we're running things. Voting's the only answer - whatever way it is. If everybody has the right to vote, I think that's how things change and how things get better. That's how we get to a better place."

When asked about wearing the t-shirt to practice, D'Antoni cited "getting older" as part of the reason he's decided to speak up on this issue.

"When you're young, you think everything's good and you don't worry about these things, but we're in a time where you need to start doing your part," said D'Antoni. "The thing that everybody can do is vote. So, get out and register, take a friend, take a family. Just do it. Let's form a better union."

"Let's push America ahead and upwards and onwards," D'Antoni concluded.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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