The Houston Rockets are expected to begin interviewing candidates this week for their vacant head-coaching job. As of last Friday, general manager Daryl Morey said the team hadn’t interviewed any candidates, including interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff.
"I think it’s going to be someone who embodies what we need," Morey said last week when asked what he wants in a coach. "We need to get our defense stronger. I don’t get too caught up in this coach is this style, that coach is that style. I think a lot of teams make mistakes in those instances. They go opposite. They add somebody quickly. We're not going to do something quickly. We're not going to do what people see as opposite.
"I can’t tell you exactly what we’re going to do, because we just started. We’re going to do a thorough search and we’re going to get it right, that’s all I can say."
Here’s an unofficial list of 10 coaches the Rockets might look at:
1. J.B. Bickerstaff: He took over 11 games into the season for the fired Kevin McHale and finished the regular season 37-34. He was liked by the players and front office; however, he had an inconsistent rotation and his team barely made the playoffs. Bickerstaff wasn’t afraid to call out his players or defend them.
2. Vinny Del Negro: He has embraced analytics and could be a dark horse candidate. Del Negro coached the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers over five seasons. He clashed with the Chicago front office, but who hasn’t? Del Negro went 10-19 in the postseason, including a seven-game series win against Memphis in 2012.
3. Chris Finch: After McHale was let go, Finch was elevated to associate head coach under Bickerstaff and ran the offense. He developed a strong relationship with the players and front office. He went 67-23 in two seasons with the Rockets’ D-League team and has coached overseas.
4. Ettore Messina: One of Gregg Popovich’s top assistants in San Antonio. Messina won four Euroleague titles and has been an assistant coach with the Lakers and Spurs. Messina would come with a fantastic recommendation and is used to dealing with veteran players, which would help on the Rockets.
5. Nick Nurse: A top assistant with Toronto, he spent two seasons with the Rockets’ D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In his six seasons working in the D-League, he oversaw 23 players who were called up to the NBA. The Rockets are familiar with him, but is he a big enough name to satisfy the fan base?
6. Kevin Ollie: The Connecticut coach could receive plenty of calls from NBA teams with vacancies. He played with Rockets guard James Harden in Oklahoma City, so that might be the hook for him in Houston. Ollie led UConn to a national title in 2014.
7. Kelvin Sampson: He is currently the coach at the University of Houston. He spent several years as an assistant coach in Milwaukee and with the Rockets before going back to the college game. He has a strong relationship with Harden, who attended a few of Sampson’s college games. Sampson’s fiery style might be something the Rockets need.
8. Ime Udoka: Another top assistant for the Spurs. Udoka has been an assistant coach in San Antonio since 2012 and has played with various NBA teams during his career. He played a large part in LaMarcus Aldridge's decision to sign with the Spurs in free agency.
9. Jeff Van Gundy: ESPN’s Marc Stein has reported the former Rockets coach and current ESPN analyst is one of the favorites. Van Gundy hasn’t coached since the 2006-07 season, and won 430 out of 748 games with the New York Knicks and Rockets. He’s noted for a slowdown offense, but is willing to make adjustments based on the personnel.
10. Frank Vogel: His contract with the Indiana Pacers ended, and it's unclear if he will return. Vogel was an assistant in Boston and Philadelphia before joining the Pacers. In six seasons coaching Indiana, Vogel is 250-181 with a 31-30 postseason mark.
Others to consider: David Blatt, Jim Boylen, Patrick Ewing, Jeff Hornacek and Jay Larranaga.