The Rockets Women’s Organization has teamed up again with Reliant to host their book drive to benefit the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation for this Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.
If you haven’t met Laurel D’Antoni, the wife of Mike D’Antoni, you’re missing out. She’s a fireball of energy and is passionate about Houston and helping those in need. She spearheaded the book drive when she came to Houston in 2016. In fact, last year, after I got a chance to interview Laurel, she reached out to one of the fans on the board and connected with his family’s charity, generously donating books and money to help their cause.
So she’s doing great work — I highly encourage you to bring new or gently used books to donate at the game on Friday. Not only is it a worthy cause but you could also win one of seven prize player packages. All the details on where at the game you can drop books off are found here.
Here’s Laurel on the book drive, the city of Houston, Linsanity, and just how good this Rockets team is.
It’s good to see you again.
You too. Thank you for doing this. You guys, the fans, are instrumental. I know everyone reads your site, of course I read it as well, but this book drive is important to us.
First of all, congrats on the “Partner In Public Education” Award and all the work you guys are doing with the Rockets Women’s Organization. That’s a great honor. I know you are doing this for other people but it shows how much work you and the Rockets Women’s Organization are putting in to help others.
I think the biggest thing is it puts everything in perspective. We’re in the entertainment business and we know where we are. We want to go, have a good time and watch what the Rockets are doing, but the reality is, with Harvey, we’ve still got people sleeping on air mattresses. That’s an issue. I’ve got a mom with a couple of girls — her house finally has drywall but they don’t have furniture and it’s scary for the kids.
This is what we’re focused on. We’re trying to do the best we can while at the same time being enthusiastic about the championship-level team we have.
So tell me about the book drive you guys are doing this Friday and how can we help as fans?
You let your fans know that for every book that they bring, we will give them one raffle ticket. Same kind of format. We have seven player packages — the starting five (Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela) as well as Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. You can bring as many books as you want to the game on Friday. You will get a raffle ticket per book. You will be entered for the drawing. We will announce the winners at the game and immediately following the game, you will have the opportunity to spend some time with that player and get his autographed jersey.
All their wives will be watching and grabbing the players as they come off the floor. You hope they win so they won’t be cranky (laughs), but it’s a way for us to provide an opportunity so our fans can meet our really great players. So bring books!
So new or gently used books?
Yeah, the normal stuff. Spanish. English. Children’s books. But you got to remember we have a lot of high schoolers that are reading high-level books, so you can bring every book and we’ll figure out what to do with it. There are no limits.
What was it like for the winners of the raffle last year?
It was so much fun. The players were so fantastic with the families. We had approximately 7,000 books last year and we’re really hoping to hit 10,000 this year. That’s our goal.
I asked you last year about Houston. You guys were new to the city then. Now you’re like a Houston vet, right?
It’s been, what, 20 months? I feel like we’ve been here forever. The city has embraced us and I’m grateful for that. The team has done really well and everyone is so excited. Hurricane Harvey kind of threw us all for a loop. I think it shows the kindness in people and compassion and I think our world needs a little more of that. I don’t know who keeps sending hurricanes our way but we better listen loud and clear to the messages that are being sent to us. I love Houston. I’ve embraced the weather now. It will be hard to get me out of here.
What are some of the things you guys love to do here in Houston?
Eat! We love to eat. We have an Italian restaurant that we go to and the chef is fantastic. We have a couple of neighborhood restaurants we frequent. We go to the movies quite a bit and we watch a lot, a lot of film at home. During the season, we don’t get out very much. We’ll do a couple of events here and there. We’re watching the NCAA because Mike’s brother took his team for the first time in 31 years. Marshall University, the upset Cinderella team! We’re loving Houston. The fans have been great. I love my section. I have really great season ticker holders. I’m pretty enthusiatic about it right now. I think it’s easy when you win. Real character comes out when you lose. I don’t want to think about that right now. (laughs)
Jeremy Lin has some connections with Houston — he came here from New York. What was it like for you and Mike during that two-week Linsanity period?
It was great. Actually, when Mike signed his contract, Mrs. Lin (Jeremy’s mother) called me and congratulated us. She said we were going to fall in love with Houston and that Jeremy loved it. She connected me to two season ticket holders, so my first contact with the Houston Rockets actually was from two season ticket holders, Dana and Ron that sit courtside, and they welcomed me to the team. Jeremy’s a great guy and comes from a really great family. That was a really great opportunity. Things happen in basketball and you have to enjoy the wave. Like surfing, right? The curl? You’ve got to ride the wave as long as you can.
Mike has had some amazing teams, especially in Phoenix. The Rockets have 61 wins with seven games to go. Is this the best team you’ve ever seen him coach?
He said it was. He said this is his favorite team so far. We have high-IQ players. We have high-character guys. We have guys that have learned to sacrifice for each other to win. You have to understand what your role is. We have guys who have bought into this. Our analytics are off the chart on where everybody fits in. So, as long as we can continue doing what we’re doing, we’re pretty excited about it. He’s ecstatic. I’m trying not to rock the boat.