Ira Winderman: Jeff Van Gundy very much sounding like someone who can fix the Rockets. "Mama, there goes that. . . " next Rockets coach?
The Rockets, sources said, were optimistic as recently as Monday that Brooks would wait until their job is officially open before making any decisions. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy was the co-favorite with Brooks in Houston.
Brian Geltzeiler: Hearing that JVG to Houston would be to work WITH Morey, as opposed to getting the power to bring in his own GM....
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wizards, cognizant that the Houston Rockets are a potential threat to pursue Brooks once their postseason ends, have ramped up their efforts to take Brooks off the market with a five-year offer believed to be in the $30 million to $35 million range.
The Rockets, sources said, were optimistic as recently as Monday that Brooks would wait until their job is officially open before making any decisions. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy is the co-favorite with Brooks in Houston and, according to sources, he would be highly interested in returning to the Rockets if the job were to come open as expected.
Jeff Van Gundy has been the Houston Rockets’ No. 1 choice, but he is unwilling to talk to the organization while a coach – in this instance, J.B. Bickerstaff – is in place, sources said. Houston and Van Gundy are expected to engage once the Rockets are eliminated from the playoffs and see if there is a chance for them to partner for a second time, league sources said.
Marc Stein: As ESPN reported earlier today, Rockets officials are hopeful Scotty Brooks will hold off and still be on the market when their job opens.
Marc Stein: One more Rockets note: Sources say Jeff Van Gundy would indeed be highly interested in a return to Houston if that job opens up as expected.
Sources say Van Gundy remains the top co-candidate in Houston alongside former Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks, who is the runaway top candidate in the Washington Wizards' search for a new coach.
Sources say that the Rockets are hopeful Brooks will wait until Houston' s season is over before taking a new job, and the Wizards are expected to press Brooks to fill their vacancy while the Rockets remain alive in a first-round series against the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
Marc Stein: With Tom Thibodeau nearing final agreement on a Minnesota deal, Jeff Van Gundy remains Houston's top co-candidate alongside Scotty Brooks.
Jeff Van Gundy is at the top of the Houston Rockets’ list of potential candidates, league sources said. Jeff Van Gundy resigned as Rockets coach in 2007 after four seasons and still lives in Houston.
Alexander said he will evaluate the status of interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff once the season ends but praised the coach by saying, “he’s got a winning record (37-34) which is good from where he started with.”
Among the five interim jobs, the Knicks (Kurt Rambis), Timberwolves (Sam Mitchell) and Suns (Earl Watson) are expected to give the incumbents strong looks, sources say. Barring something unforeseen, Tony Brown in Brooklyn and J.B. Bickerstaff in Houston will be moving on.
The Houston situation is fascinating, as league sources say GM Daryl Morey and James Harden share an interest in Brooks, who is said to be hesitant due to uncertainty over whether Dwight Howard will, in fact, opt out and become a free agent. But the mere thought of Brooks reuniting with Harden could send shivers all the way to Oklahoma City. Will Kevin Durant see it as an opportunity to put most of the band back together? The missing piece, of course, would be lead guitarist Russell Westbrook, and you can't have a band without a lead guitarist. Still, there are enough pieces in place there to make you go, "Hmmm." A lot of interested parties will be watching.
Multiple league sources told CBS Sports that Harden pushed management to dump McHale, and has since angled for the Rockets to trade Howard. Rockets GM Daryl Morey delivered on the first demand, but was unable to find a suitable deal for Howard at the trade deadline this month.
"J.B. is a young, smart coach who is strong defensively and strong with player relationships," Morey told ESPN.com. "He's forward-thinking but has experience for many years in the NBA as well. So he's grounded."
Bickerstaff knows how it goes for young coaches – never mind young African-American ones. Assistants traditionally get bad teams, with bad odds for staying power. “Let’s face it,” Bickerstaff told Yahoo, “first-time assistant coaches normally don’t walk into jobs with two perennial All-Stars on a team that just got bounced in the Western finals. Normally, they get a job in the middle of a year, playing for lottery balls. I’m fortunate, very fortunate. You don’t win without talent, but your talent has to have purpose.”
Q: Can J.B. win this job? Leslie Alexander: Of course he can. If the team responds to him and we win, of course he can.
Q: What do you like about J.B. Bickerstaff? Leslie Alexander: We spoke to him, and we think he’s a good young coach with a lot of experience. He is on the defensive end, which we really need a lot of help on. We have a good offensive coordinator [Chris Finch], so at the same time we have both. J.B. has a good relationship with the players, which I think is very important. If they didn't know him, it would be tough in the adjustment process. Now it’s much quicker.
Sources say Bickerstaff, son of respected, long-time NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, will have an opportunity to earn the permanent job. Depending on whether the Rockets are able to right their season, there will be no shortage of other candidates.
That's interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff's job now, along with fixing Houston's no-effort defense and mending what league sources describe as conflicting priorities between the front office and the coaching staff. "Is this the first crack in the analytics revolution, where they start hanging the revolutionaries themselves?" a person in the coaching business asked Wednesday. "[The Rockets] still haven't figured out chemistry. They keep adding and adding, but none of it fits."
It's certainly not too late for the Rockets to turn things around, which was the impetus for what sources described as an agonizing decision to fire McHale, who agreed to a three-year extension less than a year ago. "I dare you to find a better person than Kevin McHale," said a coaching agent who doesn't even represent him.
As Morey made clear, Bickerstaff will have a legitimate chance to make his mark here. But if the losing continues, Morey's history of being aggressive is almost certain to continue and it remains possible that the Rockets could make another change. To that end, one interesting name is Scott Brooks.
The former Oklahoma City Thunder coach not only has a positive history with Harden, but a storied history with the Rockets from his playing days (he was the backup point guard on their 1994 championship team). But according to a person with knowledge of Brooks’ situation, it’s more likely that he will wait until the summer to see what’s next on the job front. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of Brooks’ situation.
Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim head coach, and potential candidates to replace McHale, according to Wojnarowski, include Tom Thibodeau, Charlotte's Steve Clifford and Jeff Van Gundy, Stan's brother. "Well, he lives right there and he's been with them," Stan Van Gundy said. "They liked him for a while and then they didn't like him. It's the same ownership. I don't know if they like him again or what. Obviously, he'd be great, but I don't have any idea where that stands."
September 22, 2021 | 11:13 pm EDT Update
Gersson Rosas’ dismissal just days before the Minnesota Timberwolves opened training camp is stunning on its face, a change at the top of basketball operations as the team begins a critical season and is in discussions to try to trade for a disgruntled star to bolster its chances.
It is also the culmination of months of evaluation by ownership and the franchise’s high-ranking officials about the state of Rosas’ leadership and the direction of the franchise under his watch. Ownership has listened to a vocal contingent of staffers express concern about the way Rosas conducted his business, sources told The Athletic, and finally came to the conclusion that they could not wait any longer to address the situation.
Rosas’ reign was described as dysfunctional, with tension rippling through the front office, according to some sources. Outside of it, rival team executives and agents would complain about how Rosas treated relationships and negotiations. The complaints reached as high as the ownership level over the last several weeks, lending a perception of inevitability to the end of Rosas’ tenure.
Sources said Taylor made the 90-minute drive from Mankato to team headquarters in Minneapolis to take part in the meeting with Rosas personally on Wednesday, notable for an owner who has in the past sometimes left moves like this to those who work underneath him. Text messages were left by The Athletic for Rosas seeking comment that have not yet been returned. The Athletic also reached out to Taylor for further comment.
The Timberwolves named executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta as their new overseer of basketball operations, making him the first person of Indian origin to run a franchise’s basketball operations. Minnesota is expected to have a full search process, but team officials are fond of Gupta and will provide him a chance in the No. 1 role, sources said.
Prior to the announcement, The Athletic had spent the last several weeks investigating the working environment under Rosas and interviewed numerous sources on the current staff about the situation after learning of mounting discontent. Some said Rosas worked his staff long hours without giving much input into the decision-making process. Others took issue with decisions made on personnel moves and trades, including the light protections on a first-round draft pick that landed them D’Angelo Russell from Golden State, Rosas’ signature move.
Some of the issues were exacerbated this summer when Rosas and Gupta butted heads over Rosas’ decision to block Gupta from making a lateral move to the Houston Rockets with increased pay, sources said. Rosas said the timing of the request, coming right before the draft and free agency, made it impossible for the Timberwolves to let someone with as much proprietary knowledge of the team’s plans go to a competitor. The tension between Rosas and Gupta only grew later in August when Rosas banished Gupta from the team’s offices and granted him permission to seek employment elsewhere, according to sources. The issue was resolved in early September after ownership got involved and Gupta decided to stay.
One person who said he had no qualms with how Rosas led and thought there was a collaborative environment did say that the overall vibe in the front office was tense. Some of that, he believed, was due to the disenchantment of other members of the staff, but he also believed the pandemic played a role. “It is not a root cause, but it’s an accelerant,” the source said in August just before the staff left for vacation. “It’s not the spark that lit the flame, but it’s something that makes the flame burn hotter. We haven’t had a day off in basically two years.”