Jeff Van Gundy shares details of unusual Rockets interview

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy shared details of his interesting interview with the Houston Rockets, amid speculation that Russell Westbrook and James Harden didn’t want him to become the next Rockets head coach.

Although the Houston Rockets‘ coaching search has long been over, the rumblings about their coaching search displayed a divided house, to put it politely. Franchise icon James Harden was very vocal about wanting Mike D’Antoni to return to the team, but D’Antoni ultimately moved on for an assistant coach role on Steve Nash’s staff with the Brooklyn Nets.

Former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey reportedly wanted Doc Rivers to be the Rockets’ next head coach, but Rivers ultimately went to the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey also joined forces, stepping down from his Rockets post and becoming the Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations.

After not retaining his desired coach in D’Antoni, Harden then shifted his focus to Tyronn Lue, who opted to instead accept the LA Clippers job, which paid him an estimated $7 million per season. Harden and Russell Westbrook reportedly then shifted their focus to former Rockets development coach John Lucas, who joined Stephen Silas and Jeff Van Gundy as finalists for the position.

Van Gundy opens up on interview with Rockets

Silas ultimately got the position, ending his 20-year wait, and Lucas joined Silas’ staff, giving Harden and Westbrook a semblance of what they wanted. Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly preferred Van Gundy, but compromised on Silas. Van Gundy recently joined Houston’s ESPN affiliate-ESPN 97.5 FM and opened up about the details of his interview with the Rockets, specifically his conversation with Westbrook during the interview process.

“I got to speak with Russell Westbrook during the course of the interview process and I’ve gotta tell you, I was really impressed. With his directness, with his honesty about what he wanted for his next chapter and what he thought he should do, how he should be used. And he did it all in a very, very respectful manner.”

This was a classy move on Westbrook’s part, as he was rumored to have not liked the option of Van Gundy as his head coach yet still took the time to talk with him about how he felt he should be used, in addition to opening up to the longtime NBA coach on what he wants next for himself in his basketball life.

It’s worth noting that Van Gundy made no mention of any talks he had with Harden, leading many to believe that Harden wasn’t involved in his interview, which could have been a decision that he made because of his lack of interest in the former Houston Rockets coach.

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Although the coaching search displayed signs of several parties being on different pages, it’s not the first time such a thing has happened. At the end of the day, none of this will even be relevant if Silas and the Rockets churn out a good season and finish with one of the top three seeds in the Western Conference and/or reach the Western Conference Finals.