There are a lot of questions about the search for the next Houston Rockets head coach, but we also know a few things. We know now that Rafael Stone is running the search now that Daryl Morey has stepped away from the franchise.
We also know that the three finalists for the Houston head coach job are Jeff Van Gundy, John Lucas, Stephen Silas, as reported by Mark Berman of Fox News 26 in Houston. Van Gundy is a former Rockets (and Knicks) coach turned broadcaster who has been eager to get back on the sidelines in recent years. Lucas is a highly respected current Rockets’ assistant coach. Silas, son of NBA legend Paul Silas, is a top assistant with the Dallas Mavericks.
This is where things get interesting in Berman’s report:
“Sources said next step for team officials is to consult with their players about their candidates.”
That would favor Lucas. Both James Harden and Russell Westbrook have backed Lucas, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle said on the Pushin’ Thru/Athletes Unfiltered podcast (hat tip Hoopshype).
“James thinks the world of John Lucas, which, you know, who doesn’t? And obviously, working very closely with him for four years, he feels that way. And I know Russ feels that way. The whole team does. It’s John Lucas. He’s one of the icons of the league and a tremendous contributor for his work that he’s done with both just developing players.”
In the NBA, if the star players want something it tends to happen.
Money could also play a role in this. As assistant coaches, Lucas and Silas would likely be less expensive on the market than Van Gundy. (Yes, Lucas was a former head coach, but that was 17 years ago, he’s not demanding top dollar.) Because of his stature, Van Gundy could demand more but may not, depending on how badly he wants to coach again.
The next Rockets coach takes over a roster with Harden, Westbrook, and Eric Gordon eating up about 90% of the cap space, making building a contending team around them difficult. There looks to be a rebuild in the Rockets’ future, and the coach will have to know that going in.