The importance of the Rockets’ assistant coaches
Although Van Gundy struggled offensively, his defenses were ferocious and tenacious, as the Rockets were consistently within the top-five of the NBA in defensive efficiency and points allowed during his Rockets tenure. This should come as no surprise, as the Rockets had Tom Thibodeau anchoring the defensive side of the floor as an assistant coach.
Thibodeau demonstrated similar defensive excellence during his stints with the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls as well. Van Gundy will have to apply a similar approach if he lands the Rockets job, as he’ll need to be surrounded with offensive-minded assistants. One of the best offensive-minded assistants is Stephen Silas of the Dallas Mavericks, who the Rockets have expressed interest in on multiple occasions.
But we shouldn’t expect Silas to leave the Mavericks to join the Rockets as an assistant, as that would be a lateral move. Chris Finch would seem to make for an excellent option as a quality, offensive-minded assistant, and Finch is currently unemployed, as he was a part of Alvin Gentry’s staff with the New Orleans Pelicans that was recently let go.
Finch is also familiar with the Houston Rockets and GM Daryl Morey, as he spent five years as an assistant coach in Houston. Finch spent two seasons coaching the Rio Grande Vipers, which is the Rockets’ affiliate G-League team, and even won G-League Coach of the Year in 2009-10.
But even without an innovative offensive mind on Van Gundy’s staff, his job certainly wouldn’t be that difficult on that end of the floor, as the Rockets currently have one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen in James Harden, and a two-time scoring champion in Russell Westbrook, which is more than any other team can boast.
This could be why the Rockets are willing to go in the direction of a defensive-minded coach like Van Gundy. We’ll have to see what happens with the search, and the Rockets can’t interview Van Gundy in person until the NBA Finals are finished, so the speculation will mount and continue.
But it’s safe to say, the next coaching hire could be the last opportunity for the Rockets to win a title under Harden, as he’s already 31-years-old, and we know father time is undefeated.