2. Identify a head coach promptly
The Houston Rockets’ coaching search has made it clear that they didn’t anticipate having to replace Mike D’Antoni, who made the decision to part with the franchise after four seasons at the helm. The Rockets reportedly had interest in Doc Rivers, before he accepted the Philadelphia 76ers coaching job.
The next target became Tyronn Lue, who briefly played for the Rockets during the 2004-05 season as a reserve guard. Lue was rumored to have been one of the finalists for the Rockets, alongside Jeff Van Gundy, who coached him during his Houston Rockets playing days.
Lue accepted the LA Clippers’ head coaching job, and the Clippers went above and beyond to make him their man, as they inked him to a five-year deal worth $35 million. After losing out to Rivers and Lue, we’ve heard conflicting reports about the Rockets’ thought process, as it pertains to the remaining available coaching options.
It’s been reported that the three finalists are Van Gundy, Rockets player development coach John Lucas, and Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas. The Rockets have been able to take their time with the three candidates, as they aren’t on the radar of any other teams, unlike Rivers and Lue.
Lucas is an interesting name because he played in the NBA, which has made it easier for the players to relate to him. This is a trait that’s been beneficial for him as a development coach, as he has the ability to broker relationships with players, much like he did during the NBA bubble, when the playoffs nearly ended prematurely.
Lucas is said to have the backing and support of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, which can’t be overstated. But Lucas could also keep his role as a development coach on the staff of whoever is selected, assuming that’s not him.
Silas is an up-and-coming coach who is the son of Paul Silas, who spent a total of 23 years coaching in the NBA. Silas is currently on Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s staff, and was a part of the 2019-20 Mavericks team that had the best offense in NBA history.
Van Gundy spent four years as the coach of the Rockets, posting a 328-182 record, while leading the Rockets to the playoffs in three of his four seasons, in spite of the injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
Van Gundy also led the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals during the 1998-99 season, and also led the Knicks to the playoffs in his first five seasons in the Big Apple.
Although the Rockets’ coaching vacancy remains one of the best open jobs on the coaching market, the Rockets have struggled to identify who they want. Stone and assistant GM Eli Witus must come to a decision on who they want, as the longer they wait, they run a higher risk of losing the interest of whoever they’re after.
But at the same time, Stone and Witus must make the correct hire, as the next coach will be responsible for leading the team to a title during the remainder of Harden and Westbrook’s peak years.
Next: No. 1