Fired Rockets coach pushes back against fans, media

2023 NBA Summer League - Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets
2023 NBA Summer League - Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets' rebuild has sparked many different conversations regarding how a rebuild is correctly orchestrated. Fans have engaged in debates centered around whether a contending team is best concocted through the draft, free agency, or via trade, with each faction presenting compelling arguments. 

The Rockets have opted to rebuild through the draft, as they've stock-piled young talent such as Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, Alperen Sengun, and most recently Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson. The Rockets find themselves desperate to morph into the tier of contending teams in the crowded Western Conference, and they'll only be able to achieve that goal if their young core shows significant growth and development. 

But just because the team has made it a goal to win now doesn't mean their strategy will come at the sacrifice of player development, which former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy attempted to explain to Rockets fans and media members. Van Gundy was on The Wheelhouse with Jake Asman, Cody Stoots, & Brad Kellner on ESPN 97.5 & 92.5 FM Houston.

"A day after the draft I was reading The Houston Chronicle and they had the headline 'Rockets to prioritize winning over development.' And I was sort of stunned. I'm like, 'Do we have to say in pro sports that winning is important? Like, that seemed somewhat obvious. I think fans oftentimes confuse the two things, like they're mutually exclusive."

Van Gundy shared details of how development is attained, allowing fans a glimpse into how coaches evaluate growth.

Fired Rockets coach pushes back against fans, media

"I think the best development comes when you are trying to win. When there's pressure to perform. Putting up meaningless, empty stats in games that are blowouts or not intense means nothing for development. I just think it's completely misunderstood how you develop a winning player in the NBA. The first step is that the players understand it's a meritocracy.

Those that deserve to play will play. That doesn't mean an older veteran is, say 35, and let's say Thompson are close. That doesn't mean you're going to play the veteran over him because you have to project where Thompson, with playing experience, will get to.

But I do think it's important that players know that mistakes matter, that there are ramifications for mistakes and playing losing basketball just like there are good things that happen when you play winning basketball.

So I think the first thing that everyone needs to do, that's a Rockets fan, is to understand that the two concepts of winning and development go hand in hand. Versus being mutually exclusive."

Van Gundy offered encouragement for Rockets fans, stating that newly-hired coach Ime Udoka will help lead the team in the direction that they're hoping to go.

"Not only is he a really smart, smart basketball guy, but I really like him as a person as well. I think he's gonna fit into the Texas and Houston mindset and the culture of the city. And I think he's gonna be beloved."

Rockets fans should take note from Van Gundy, as he can teach everyone a thing or two, after spending 11 years in the big chair and having just one losing season.