The Houston Rockets' head coaching search has commenced rather promptly, and the Rockets' have concocted a who's who of targets on their wishlist. But one of the names was quite perplexing: Phoenix Suns assistant Kevin Young.
Before getting any further, let's note that Young is an up-and-coming coach who has paid his dues. This includes being on an NBA coaching bench for seven seasons, in addition to three coaching stints in the G-League. A relatively younger candidate, the 41-year-old coach was in contention for the Utah Jazz job one season ago, after Quin Snyder walked away.
And Young has drawn recent praise from current Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, who stated “He can do stuff on the court and he’s a mastermind with the Xs and Os and game scouting and knowing teams." And although this would be beneficial, this would be an oversight on the Rockets' part, if they do want a relatively younger first-time head coach (although this would be a surprise after they were dismayed with the Stephen Silas experience, who was also a younger first-time coach).
Why hiring Kevin Young would be a mistake for the Rockets
The Rockets' best bet, if they want a rising coach who hails from the G-League, is Mahmoud Abdelfattah, who is currently on their bench now. Abdelfattah, who coached the Rockets' G-League affiliate Rio Grande Vipers, won the G-League's Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year in 2022, guided the Vipers to the most wins in the Western Conference, and brought home the G-League championship in the same year.
In other words, if the goal is to land an unknown gem who had prior success from the G-League, there isn't anyone who fits that bill better than Abdelfattah, who also has experience on the NBA sideline, like Young.
But Abdelfattah's coaching style is one that should also draw appeal for the Rockets, which he stated on the Rocket Fuel podcast with myself and former Space City Scoop writer Lachard Binkley. Abdelfattah walked us through what it takes to win a championship on any level.
"Number one is setting expectations. We talked about that from day one. We wanted to win the G-League Showcase, and that was on the board every single day. That was talked about.
And the second thing is the accountability. Guys understood who our best players were and who could fill roles. And it was my job to hold those guys accountable. But they also did a heck of a job of holding one another accountable, and we did that on a daily basis.
I tried to talk to the guys once a day to build trust. Trust builds accountability. And with accountability builds success."
Abdelfattah gave a glimpse of what those one-on-one conversations are also like.
"You just have to be honest. You have to be as honest as can be in any place you coach, from the NBA to college.
Talking to those guys and building their trust let them know that when they weren't playing, at least I'm keeping it 100 with them...they know that coach is being honest with them."
Listening to Abdelfattah explain his coaching roots, it's easy to tell he's put an abundance of time in the film room.
"I watch every coach in the league. From when Brad Stevens was coaching to Erik Spoelstra to Gregg Popovich and Quin Snyder.
I've been around Coach D'Antoni and I've been around Coach Silas and I've learned the most from those two guys. Because I've been around them every single day."
Again, Abdelfattah would be the gem that the Rockets are looking for, if that's their desired path. Based on their list, however, it seems they are seeking a proven head coach, as their list contains championship coaches, such as Frank Vogel and Nick Nurse, and others who have been to the Finals, a la Ime Udoka (who may not have interest in the Rockets' job) and Scott Brooks.
But regardless of whether the Rockets go down the path of a younger coach, Abdelfattah made it clear that he wouldn't be upset if his time isn't right now, as he'll stay ready, regardless of when the opportunity presents itself.
"I wanna be a head coach. If it's 5 years from now, 10 years from now or 20 years from now. All I know is I'm gonna be prepared. You can hold me to that. It does not matter when it's gonna be."
Before turning to Kevin Young, the Rockets should give serious consideration to Mahmoud Abdelfattah.