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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James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

3. Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale joined the Rockets in 2011 and remained the coach up until 2015 when he was let go after just 11 games. Despite the unceremonious exit, McHale actually has the second highest win percentage in team history, as his 59.8 percent win record is second to only current coach Mike D’Antoni. Following the lockout shortened season, which was his first year at the helm, McHale’s Rockets never missed the playoffs. This was important because the team missed the playoffs in the previous two seasons before McHale’s arrival.

Many Rockets fans forget that the Rockets actually narrowly missed the postseason in 2012, which was the season prior to the arrival of superstar James Harden. Furthermore, the Rockets actually ranked ninth in points per game before they even had Harden. This is why it was no surprise that the Rockets finished second in points per game in the 2012-13 season with Harden, as McHale had already proven to be able to guide the team to one of the better offenses in the league.

McHale’s Rockets also led the league in pace in Harden’s first year with the team, but got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. During that season, the Rockets had a record of 45-37 and finished with the eight seed in the Western Conference. In the off-season, the Rockets added then All-Star Dwight Howard, which was a big surprise as many thought he was going to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Following the signing of D12, the Rockets went on to go 54-28, good for fourth in the West in 2014, but were ultimately defeated in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The following year is when McHale really proved his value. In 2015, the Rockets went 56-26, earning their way to the second seed in the West. However, they found themselves down 1-3 against former Rockets guard Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers, but were able to win Game 5 to keep their season alive.

In the fourth quarter in Game 6 of that series, McHale made the notorious decision to bench James Harden, with the Rockets down 79-92 in a close out game. As imagined, this was a very unpopular decision, especially with the Rockets’ season hanging in the balance. However, the Rockets would come back to win the game and go on to win Game 7 in Houston to advance to the Conference Finals.

However, the Rockets would eventually fall to the Golden State Warriors within 5 games. Under McHale, the Rockets increased their win total in each season, but were ultimately never able to win an NBA title.

Next: MDA