Sources say Jeff Van Gundy has received strong support from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to make a return to Houston for a second stint as the team’s coach, but they maintain that Alexander has yet to be fully sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been working in television since the sides parted ways in May 2007.
Veteran NBA coach Mike D'Antoni has landed a second interview with Houston and is an increasingly serious candidate for the Rockets' coaching vacancy, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN.com that D'Antoni, who is currently serving as associate head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, was summoned for a second sit-down with the club -- this time face-to-face with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander -- after impressing in his first interview.
Marc J. Spears: Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina interviewed for the Rockets' head coach opening last Saturday, a source said.
Veteran NBA coach Mike D'Antoni has landed a second interview with Houston and is an increasingly serious candidate for the Rockets' coaching vacancy, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that D'Antoni, currently serving as associate head coach with the Philadelphia 76ers, was summoned for a second sit-down with the club -- this time face-to-face with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander -- after impressing in his first interview. The Rockets, sources say, would seek to hire a coach with strong defensive credentials, to essentially serve as D'Antoni's defensive coordinator, if talks progress to a serious stage and D'Antoni eventually emerges as Houston's choice to replace Kevin McHale and interim successor J.B. Bickerstaff.
Sources say Jeff Van Gundy has received strong support from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to make a return to Houston for a second stint as the team's coach, but also maintain that Alexander has yet to be fully sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been working in television since the sides parted ways in May 2007.
The former Rockets point guard discussed his interview with Houston during TNT’s pregame show Monday prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. “Some of the information is sensitive … but we met,” Smith said. “Then after we met, I had great talks with (team owner) Les Alexander afterwards for a couple of days. We corresponded. “The Rockets have a philosophy of what they think their coach should be. Right now, I’m here and it looks like I’m going to be here. And that’s great.”
Mark Berman: Kenny Smith is no longer involved in the Rockets coaching search, but really appreciates getting the chance to talk with owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey about the job: "The process has been great. It's been a great opportunity. I had several calls with Les Alexander. I met with him once and we talked on several occasions. It was a great process, and I wish the Rockets the best. Right now it just looks like the fit doesn't work."
Mark Berman: Kenny Smith said it meant a lot that the Rockets reached out to him about their vacant head coaching position: "It was great. I know that I'm more than capable of managing a team, more than capable of coaching a team. I audition every night without trying to by being on television. It was great that (Rockets owner Leslie Alexander) recognized that this year. When you get a chance to talk with people at that length you get to know even more about them that I didn't even know as a player. It was a great opportunity."
Mark Berman: Kenny Smith is no longer involved in the Rockets search for their next head coach. He called it a great opportunity to interview for the job: "I will be a head coach in the NBA some day. Never underestimate the heart of a champion."
Former Rockets guard Kenny Smith will no longer be a candidate to be Rockets head coach, a person with knowledge of the decision said Monday on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the process. Smith was described as very impressive and likely to become an NBA head coach if he pursues it, the individual familiar with the decision-making said, but the Rockets will shift their focus to experienced head coaches and extremely experienced assistants.
Calvin Watkins: Rockets don't have any finalists yet but source said the team was impressed with Kenny Smith during the interview process and believe he'll become a head coach one day. Team wants a head coach with experience.
Jonathan Feigen: Second interviews could come by end of the week, source said. Frank Vogel and Ettore Messina "part of process." Can't say if have interviewed.
David Medrano: Got a gut feeling it's Jeff Van Gundy or bust. Any idea if his job as an analyst is the hold up? Messina willing to come on as OC? - Jonathan Feigen: They have not met with Jeff Van Gundy, but they are interested, source said. Hold-up is just to get to know others first.
#BringKennyBack was trending for a while in Houston Friday morning/afternoon. When you clicked the hashtag you saw that it was filled with love for former Rockets point guard Kenny "The Jet" Smith. Then there was word of a rally at Toyota Center So, I'm not doing anything Friday afternoon. Why not check out and see why on earth people would have a Kenny Smith rally? Don't these people understand the Jet has as likely a chance at becoming head coach as one of them? Going into it thinking this would be some kind of joke or farce, color me surprised: there was actually a pretty decent turnout.
Gery Woelfel: Source says Jeff Van Gundy remains a finalist and, may indeed be the frontrunner, for Rockets coaching position.
Former Rockets guard Kenny Smith, who is an NBA analyst with TNT and a candidate to become the next head coach of the Rockets, said he had “a great meeting” with team officials on Tuesday. Smith told FOX 26 Sports he met with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey for 2 1/2 to three hours at Alexander’s home in South Florida.
Mark Berman: Kenny Smith, candidate to be next head coach of Rockets said he had "great meeting" w/Leslie Alexander & Daryl Morey. tinyurl.com/gqymu8s
Mark Berman: Kenny Smith says the Rockets "have a clear vision of what they want to do." https://t.co/n3G2IcqbHh
Jeff Hornacek and Kenny Smith interviewed for the Houston Rockets job today according to a source. More interviews are being planned with other candidates.
Calvin Watkins: The Houston Rockets, who are in the middle of a coaching search, have yet to present any of the candidates to star guard James Harden according to a source. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said they would talk to Harden during the coaching search and free agency process.
Calvin Watkins: It appears in the early stages the organization has yet to talk to Harden. But there's a feeling they will at some point before a final decision is made. The Rockets have spoken to at least seven candidates about the coaching job.
Mark Berman: NBA sources confirm the #Rockets are interviewing former Cavaliers Coach David Blatt today. First reported by @Marc Stein
Jonathan Feigen: Can confirm that David Blatt is meeting with Daryl Morey and Leslie Alexander today. Jeff Hornacek and Kenny Smith tomorrow.
Mark Berman: NBA sources: #Rockets will interview former Rockets star Kenny Smith (@Kenny Smith) in South Florida Tuesday https://t.co/FtziQLa3NZ
Marc Stein: NBA coaching sources say former Cavaliers coach David Blatt is interviewing with Houston today for the Rockets' coaching vacancy
Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt is interviewing Monday for the Houston Rockets' vacancy, according to league sources.
Sacramento has taken the pragmatic, plodding approach to its coaching search, the Kings’ list of known candidates in the double digits and very little clarity about who might be in the lead, but Joerger is clearly a person of great interest now. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Kings have made Joerger a top priority in their search and appear motivated to get a deal done. Joerger, who is attracted not only to the job itself but to the area, is deliberating it all in the wake of the Grizzlies move that caught him by surprise in timing alone. He is also receiving consideration from the Houston Rockets, and that interest - however strong - is mutual as well. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the fluid nature of the situation.
David Aldridge: Kings' pursuit of Joerger is strong, but he will wait until Rockets can put a potential package together. Pacers could be in mix, too.
Ken Berger: Joerger immediately becomes a candidate for other openings, especially Houston and Indiana, league sources say.
The Houston Rockets have scheduled interviews with former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant coach Stephen Silas, sources told ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
The Rockets have scheduled a meeting with former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, a person with knowledge of the talks said on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the coaching search.
Sources tell ESPN.com that TNT's Kenny Smith, who like Cassell is a former Rockets player, could also land an interview. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander remains close to many players from the team's highly successful Clutch City era, which delivered two championships, and holds them in high esteem. "I've always said anything basketball is me," Smith said Wednesday night on TNT when asked by Charles Barkley if he would be interested in the Rockets job. "And this is basketball. I enjoy being here. This is me."
Marc Stein: ESPN sources say Sixers associate head coach Mike D'Antoni is interviewing for the Houston Rockets' coaching job this week
Calvin Watkins: Former Rockets guard and current Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell interviewed for the gig along with Rockets asst. coach Chris Finch.
Marc Stein: Can't speak to the NBA aspirations of either one, but sources say two college coaches who intrigue the Rockets are Shaka Smart and Bill Self
Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy remains prominent on the organization’s list of candidates, league sources said.
Among the NBA candidates with whom the Rockets are working to set up interviews are former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources said. There could be 10-15 – perhaps even more – candidates interviewed in the process, league sources said.
That likely will be only the start. Morey disputed the depiction of the Rockets' chemistry problems, saying that they were no greater than is typical when teams play badly and that the chemistry was no worse this season than it was good with the same players last season. But anyone privy to all those team meetings could describe dysfunction that will have to be addressed. Next season's coach will have to demand or inspire that kind of change and likely will have to convince Morey, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and CEO Tad Brown that he can turn the Rockets into a team built to win in the postseason.
The source also said Lue currently has no interest in any of the current head-coaching vacancies around the league in Houston, New York, Sacramento or the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise he started his career with as a rookie point guard in 1998-99.
Mark Berman: Daryl Morey says #Rockets will conduct thorough search for head coach & JB Bickerstaff will be "under consideration" https://t.co/5127rksTSx
Mark Berman: Daryl Morey says the #Rockets head coach search will be thorough and "we're not going to do something quickly." https://t.co/CwtQa5y4vB
Mark Berman: NBA sources confirm #Rockets received permission from Golden State to interview Warriors assistant Luke Walton.
Sam Amick: As @MarcJSpearsESPN noted, the Rockets (like the Lakers) have received permission to speak with Luke Walton. The Kings, I'm told, have not.
Marc J. Spears: After being eliminated by GSW, Rockets received permission to interview asst. coach Luke Walton for coach job, sources told @TheUndefeated.
Alexander and Morey believe that Harden will play a role in helping to hire a coach and potentially sign free agents. Howard is not expected to have a role.
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.
October 20, 2020 | 4:12 pm EDT Update
For all the changes to the Rockets since last season, with the departure of Mike D’Antoni as coach and Daryl Morey as general manager, owner Tilman Fertitta said on Tuesday that the stars of his roster will remain. The “window,” he said, is still open, giving him no reason for more widespread changes.
“You have James Harden and Russell Westbrook and you have almost 90 percent of your salaries tied up in them and Eric Gordon,” Fertitta said in his weekly CNBC appearance, “But anytime you have players like Eric, P.J. (Tucker), James and Russell, there’s no reason to blow up your roster.
“This is still our window, the next couple years. James and Russell are in their early 30s. We’re not blowing up anything. We plan on contending. I always said you want to set yourself up to be one of the top four teams in your conference each year and then it takes a little luck to win. You look at every year it always takes a little luck.
“So, we’re going to set ourselves up to make the moves, to be one of the top teams. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win. I can promise that to my fans and compete for the NBA championship this year.”
October 20, 2020 | 2:01 pm EDT Update
The Indiana Pacers announced Tuesday that they have hired Nate Bjorkgren as head coach. Per team policy, the terms of the contract were not released. Bjorkgren (pronounced BEE-ork-gren) served as assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors during the past two seasons (2018-20), and helped the Raptors win their first NBA Championship during the 2018-19 season. He also served as player development coordinator and assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns for two seasons from 2015-17 before joining the Raptors as an advanced scout during the 2017-18 season.
“We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach,” said President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time. He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward.”