Daily Rocket Science: Who can right the ship?

Feb 4, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets head coach J.B. Bickerstaff applauds during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets head coach J.B. Bickerstaff applauds during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Candidates to coach the Rockets next year seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

After a few days where not much was released to the public about the Houston Rockets‘ search for a head coach, at least a few names were dropped last night. The list of potential candidates for the head coach position includes, but is not limited to, Jeff Van Gundy, Frank Vogel, Bill Self, Shaka Smart, Mike D’Antoni, Kenny Smith, Sam Cassell, Stephen Silas, Jeff Hornacek, and Chris Finch. Whew. I think that’s it.

It would not surprise me one bit if there were more people in consideration who haven’t been mentioned yet. If you haven’t guessed it already, today’s Daily Rocket Science will be taking a look at the extensive search for a new head coach, and how he’ll have his work cut out for him once he’s hired.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

The first thing to discuss is the absence of one particular name from the aforementioned list of potentials: JB Bickerstaff. Not surprisingly, the interim head coach removed his name from consideration earlier today, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. After scraping into the playoffs this year while leading a talented team, Bickerstaff realized he’d have better luck going back to assistant coaching, drawing interest from several teams for that position.

Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.

After taking over following Kevin McHale’s firing in November, Bickerstaff went 37-34 as interim head coach, earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Houston lost 4-1 to defending champion Golden State in the first round.

It’s no surprise that the Rockets’ search is far-reaching, but there is one candidate being considered for head coach who I believe has no business anywhere in Houston. That man is Mike D’Antoni. Why GM Daryl Morey is considering hiring a coach who has proven to be solely focused on offense and has a bad track record of dealing with superstars is beyond me, considering that the main struggles this year stemmed from the defensive side of the floor and superstar egos. However, ESPN’s Calvin Watkins reported that D’Antoni has already had an interview for the job.

Former NBA head coach Mike D’Antoni was in Houston this week interviewing for the Houston Rockets‘ vacant coaching position, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources told ESPN.com that D’Antoni, currently an associate head coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, spent Wednesday in Houston after the Rockets secured permission from the Sixers to speak with him.

The Rockets are just beginning what they intend to be a broad, deliberate search for a new head coach, not unlike the approach currently being taken by the Sacramento Kings.

More from Space City Scoop

Whomever eventually gets the honor of coaching the Houston Rockets next season will have a tough job on his hands. He’ll be coming into a franchise with high expectations, just one year removed from a run to the semifinals. However, his team is also one that was stricken will all sorts of issues this past season, led by a superstar who doesn’t even ride with his team to away games sometimes. Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes goes into more detail about the unique situation in which the new coach will find himself, and wishes the guy good luck.

Remember, Houston visited the Western Conference finals just last season. The Rockets showed remarkable fight in roaring back from a 3-1 deficit to topple the Los Angeles Clippers during the previous round and then gave the eventual champion Golden State Warriors a reasonably spirited run.

Maybe the guy in charge won’t be asked to return the team immediately to the league’s penultimate stage, but as long as Harden is there, the Rockets will be expected to post something in the neighborhood of 50 wins.

I’ve argued before that the head coach position is becoming more and more meaningless in today’s basketball world, but I’m about to eat my words. I believe that the Houston Rockets, given a moderately successful offseason with free agent signings and trades, are a good coach away from being contenders and a bad coach away from missing the playoffs next year. Only time will tell how this summer’s decision will pay off.

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