In what could be considered a move to save his own reputation, J.B. Bickerstaff has notified the Houston Rockets he doesn’t want the head coaching job.
A lack luster season saw the Houston Rockets win more than lose under interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and nab the eighth seed, but despite what the brass said the writing was on the wall for him to be fired. Perhaps Bickerstaff did withdraw knowing he can gain employment elsewhere. Bickerstaff stepping down feels like a convenient excuse to avoid the inevitable.
Then again, ask yourself if you would want the Rockets head coaching position given how much is entailed. It’s not simply an x’s and o’s proposition. There is plenty of work to be undertaken in Houston as this team requires a huge roster shake-up, a complete redefining of player roles and improvement on both ends of the court. Arguably the most important role the new head coach will need to address is team chemistry. A slippery slope since he’ll need to manage James Harden‘s ego while simultaneously gaining his respect.
As per Bickerstaff his substitutions and roster usage is what he came under fire the most for (at least on Space City Scoop). Repeatedly he refused to utilize K.J. McDaniels which had many pundits begging to know why the Rockets chose to resign the athletic small forward if they weren’t going to play him. Likewise, the starting rotation saw so many different iterations it became fodder for punchlines. With Corey Brewer playing arguably his worst season as a professional, it took Bickerstaff until the final 2 post season games to recognize his minutes should be limited.
In fairness, expecting Bickerstaff to figure out how to fix the James Harden and Dwight Howard issue after Kevin McHale couldn’t was unfair. McHale is known as a player’s coach, whereas J.B. who excelled in an assistant’s role just wasn’t ready for that assignment. Nor was he ready to react on the fly to make in game adjustments.
Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reported Bickerstaff’s decision to pull himself out of consideration after intense end of season meetings with Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and GM Daryl Morey. Feigen noted a source who asked to remain anonymous that the Rockets have already met with Sam Cassell and current associate head coach Chris Finch. Further Feigen says this source told him the Rockets list of interviewees for head coach is long and will include existing head and associate coaches, former coaches, former players and college coaches.
Like most pundits Feigen sees Jeff Van Gundy holding the edge to gain the job:
"Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy is expected to be high on the Rockets list of targets, two individuals with knowledge of the team’s thinking said this week. Pacers coach Frank Vogel, whose contract is up and with few signs that Pacers president Larry Bird will seek to bring him back, could also be a candidate. He went through a seven-hour interview with Morey in 2011 when he was a Pacers interim coach."
It is interesting to hear Frank Vogel‘s name repeatedly coming up as a possibility. I’d say Larry Bird will want to resign Vogel because other than Paul George and rookie Myles Turner the only other plus the Pacers had in the first round was his coaching. Given the fact the Pacers pushed the Raptors to a game 7, it’s likely Vogel returns to the Pacers knowing Indy just needs to add a few pieces. Why he would want to leave Indy where he has a solid relationship with George for Houston to work with Harden? Especially given Vogel is a defensive coach, so he’d have his work cut out in Houston since Harden isn’t topping the list of 2-way players.
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Maybe I’m crazy but Hornacek feels like a good fit. He was responsible for turning the Suns around as they barely missed the playoffs in the first 2 seasons under his tenure. Horacek also fits the Rockets desire to be a perimeter shooting heavy team (again, look at his success in Phoenix).
And certainly he won’t take any nonsense from his players as the youtube video below demonstrates. Additionally he instituted a rule in Phoenix where a technical foul or barking at the referees would earn you extra time on the bench. Suffice to say he rules with an iron fist. Normally, I’m not in favor of that type of coaching, but in the Rockets case I do feel they need someone of that ilk to take over the reigns.
Though we’ve yet to see Mark Jackson‘s name surface in the potential candidates it also seems like he would be a logical fit and one who the players would respect.
Certainly, they’ll be numerous candidates interviewed and no doubt this is going to be a long arduous journey, but hopefully one that is resolved prior to the NBA 2016 draft as the Rockets likely want their new head coach to have a say in whether they should try to gain entry in the first round via a trade(s).
Make sure you check out Space City Scoops end of season Rockets Round Table:
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