2. Securing Ime Udoka in 2023
When a team is coming off one of the the worst historical three-year runs in the history of a sport, a few things are expected. Or at least a few things should be expected.
It should first be expected that whoever was coaching the team during those three years will be terminated. After all, who survives that poor of a showing on the job?
However, it should not be expected that the organization will be able to land an elite replacement at the helm unless they dole out significant bread in a contract. Take the Detroit Pistons, for example.
They've been doormats in the Eastern Conference for the last several years and had to offer the bag to Monty Williams to get him to even consider coaching them. When it was all said and done, the Pistons gave Williams a six-year deal worth virtually $79 million to become their next coach (an average annual value of $13.1 million).
Williams is one of the better young coaches who previously reached the NBA Finals and spent time under one of the greatest coaches ever in Gregg Popovich as a player.
Rafael Stone and the Rockets were able to land a eerily similar coaching profile in Ime Udoka, who both played and coached under Popovich and previously reached the NBA Finals in his last coaching gig with the Boston Celtics, for a fraction of the price.
The Rockets gave Udoka a four-year deal worth $28.5 million (an average annual value of $7.1 million). Talk about a bargain.
Udoka is one of just five coaches in the last 25 years to reach the NBA Finals as a rookie and the Rockets were able to ink him on a bargain deal. And that may not even be the most impressive facet to the move.
What's more superb is how the Rockets landed Udoka.
The franchise began their coaching search while the 2023 NBA playoffs were underway, beating other teams who later terminated their coaches to the punch. Udoka was in high demand, as the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors held extreme interest in the 45-year-old due, in large part, to relationships with Kevin Durant and Masai Ujiri.
The Rockets snagged Udoka off the market before those other teams even had vacancies, which was a strategy that Stone must receive credit for.