Houston Rockets: Top 5 coaches in franchise history

Anthony Duckett
Head coach Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Head coach Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets (Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets RAFER ALSTON and head coach, JEFF VAN GUNDY
Houston Rockets RAFER ALSTON and head coach, JEFF VAN GUNDY (Photo by Robert Seale/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images) /

4. Jeff Van Gundy

Jeff Van Gundy was the Rockets head coach from 2004-2007, and has a win percentage of 55.5 percent, which ranks fifth best in team history. JVG coached the Rockets to the postseason in three of the four years he coached the Rockets. The one year in which they did miss the postseason, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming missed a combined 60 games.

In addition, the Rockets had the fifth seed in the West in two of the three years in which they made the postseason. This is important because the Rockets actually missed the playoffs in the previous four consecutive years prior to Van Gundy’s arrival. It makes it even more impressive considering the fact that the Rockets made the playoffs in his first season at the helm, which was before the arrival of McGrady.

JVG helped the Rockets transition from the Steve Francis era to the Tracy McGrady era. Not only that, but JVG helped turn T-Mac into a passer, as he had a career high 6.5 assists per game in 2007, which actually ranked 12th in the league that year. This can’t be glossed over, as McGrady had a career average of 4.2 assists per game prior to that season. But not only that, McGrady was an elite scorer, as he led the league in scoring in each of the two seasons before being traded to the Rockets. It was great for Van Gundy to have been able to turn one of the league’s best scorers into a top 12 passer.

In addition, center Yao Ming had his two best scoring seasons under Van Gundy,  as he averaged 22.3 points per game in the 2005-06 season and 25 points per game in the 2006-07 season. The key component regarding Van Gundy’s tenure with the Rockets that gets overlooked is how he was able to handle the injuries of T-Mac and Yao Ming. In JVG’s final season, the Rockets went 52-30 despite being without T-Mac and Yao Ming for a combined 45 games that year.

Unfortunately, many Rockets fans will remember Van Gundy for not being able to lead the Rockets past the first round of the playoffs, but it can’t be forgotten that the Rockets weren’t contenders for four consecutive seasons prior to his arrival. Van Gundy was the transition from the lottery team Rockets to a Rockets team with expectations of making the playoffs.

It makes you wonder how much better would Van Gundy’s Rockets have been if he had current General Manager Daryl Morey, who ironically arrived the year after Van Gundy was no longer coaching the Rockets.

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