Although the Houston Rockets are interested in Jeff Van Gundy to fill their coaching vacancy, their current roster could pose philosophical challenges for Van Gundy.
When the Houston Rockets first attempted to negotiate an extension with Mike D’Antoni last summer, there were instant signs of friction and both sides being on different pages. D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie was seeking to get top dollar for his client and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who is known to be an aggressive-minded businessman, was seeking to make D’Antoni earn the annual number he desired.
The Rockets ultimately offered a one year band-aid that was laced with incentives, which D’Antoni’s camp unsurprisingly declined. The failed negotiations sparked rumors and speculation throughout the season, and we began to hear names of potential replacements.
One of those names was Jeff Van Gundy, as Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that the Rockets had interest in the ESPN analyst and former Houston Rockets coach. Shortly after it was announced that D’Antoni and the Rockets were parting ways, Van Gundy’s name was thrown out again, which was a clear indication of interest by the Rockets’ brass.
Should Jeff Van Gundy be interested in the Rockets vacancy?
But would the current construction of the roster be appealing for Van Gundy? Not everyone thinks so, starting with Frank Isola, who shared his thoughts on Sirius XM’s NBA morning show The Starting Lineup.
“The idea that they’re going to keep a small lineup, and then you think about Jeff Van Gundy. If Jeff’s a candidate, Jeff had Patrick [Ewing] in New York and then he had Yao Ming in Houston. Is he going to want to play that way? I guess he would have no other choice.”
One of the main concerns with Van Gundy is that he’s been out of an NBA coaching role since his four-year stint as the Houston Rockets coach ended in 2007. Times have certainly changed since he roamed the sidelines, as the Patrick Ewing’s and Yao Ming’s of yesteryear are no longer flooded across the league.
The Rockets could very well be forced to turn to a developmental player like Isaiah Hartenstein or Bruno Caboclo to fill their need for a big man, and for a coach who placed such an emphasis on feeding his bigs, those options would seem to not be reliable enough to be featured as a primary option.
But on top of that, Van Gundy has an appealing job right now as an NBA analyst for ESPN, meaning he’s currently getting paid handsomely while also staying around the game, so does he want to walk away from that and return to the rigors and daily grind of coaching?
We also can’t ignore the fact that he stated during numerous occasions throughout the Rockets’ playoff games that Mike D’Antoni was the perfect fit for small ball, which could be interpreted a number of ways. It could be a discreet way of saying he knows he’d be limited with the microball approach, due to his consistent usage of Hall of Fame centers or simply him trying to give credit to D’Antoni.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens as it pertains to the Rockets’ coaching search, as the Rockets have plenty of time to make a decision since the 2020-21 season doesn’t have an official start date yet. For that reason, we should expect this to be a lengthy process, as opposed to a swift decision.