Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will remain in that position for the rest of the season following the dismissal of Kevin McHale, owner Leslie Alexander said to both Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston and Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com (Twitter links). GM Daryl Morey, while praising Bickerstaff’s leadership ability, had shown hesitance to say that he would remain in place all season in an interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick, but sources told Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders that Bickerstaff will at least have a chance to vie for the long-term job (Twitter link).
“For the season he’s going to be the interim coach. We’ll worry about coaching searches later,” Alexander told Berman (Twitter link).
Alexander, who purchased the club in July 1993, ripped the performance of the team as he spoke with Berman, saying the team has never played quite so poorly in his time as owner (Twitter link). Still, he called McHale a “tremendous” coach and admitted firing him was difficult, Berman relays (Twitter links). Alexander told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that he doesn’t regret breaking with tradition to sign an in-season extension with McHale last December, and Feigen notes that McHale likely would have received a new deal after last season anyway (Twitter link). Instead, the owner seemed to direct his ire at the players.
“Some guys obviously aren’t playing hard enough,” Alexander said to Berman (Twitter link). “If they don’t respond and play hard they’re not going to stay here.”
Morey said earlier today that the team would “make changes until we win.” The Rockets are just 4-7 so far this season, with a game tonight at home against the Trail Blazers.
McHale was grooming Chris Finch to ultimately succeed him, but the Rockets passed him over to make Bickerstaff the interim coach, with Finch becoming his top assistant, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Bickerstaff’s defensive acumen helped him win the job, as did his relationship with the team’s players, Berger writes, though Finch has bonded with the players, too, Watkins tweets.
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