The coaching has done things differently.
Mike D’Antoni and A.J. Hinch are both coaches that are willing to think outside of the box. They also both got their starts in the desert. A.J. Hinch’s only previous managerial experience was with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and D’Antoni began with the Phoenix Suns.
Because of Hinch’s lack of managerial experience, he was also more open to an outside the box approach. He employed borderline absurd defensive shifts, unorthodox bullpen matchups, and more platoon opportunities for position players. This train of thought enabled the ‘Stros to outperform expectations and become world champions.
D’Antoni pioneered the “7 Seconds or Less” offense in Phoenix with Steve Nash and co. This approach had never been seen before in the NBA, and he brought a similar to approach to Houston. There has been a greater emphasis on defense and even more 3-pointers. This has helped bury and deflate opponents because they simply can’t keep up.
Their unorthodox methods also helped develop a culture that was different and about winning. Hinch’s brought a World Series title, and D’Antoni’s is inching the Houston Rockets closer.