The Rockets fired coach Kevin McHale earlier today and installed J.B Bickerstaff as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. GM Daryl Morey said that he has not lost faith in the team’s ability to contend, and cited the lack of time to dally in the rugged Western Conference as reasoning for making the coaching move. Here’s what is being said around the league regarding McHale and Houston parting ways:
- James Harden‘s “style” has created tension within the Rockets, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, and while that’s short on specifics, a follow-up tweet from Zillgitt suggests that it’s Harden’s playing style that’s irking some on the team. Still, Harden and Dwight Howard were both upbeat following Tuesday’s players-only meeting, which preceded the team’s coaching change today.
- McHale admits that his situation in Houston was growing untenable, though he does believe that he could have turned things around, writes Jonathan Feigen of he Houston Chronicle. “We probably had more meetings in last six weeks than in my previous four years here,” said McHale. “It wasn’t working.”
- The coach understood that a change could be coming after the Rockets’ loss to the Nuggets last Friday, and McHale wasn’t surprised by the team’s decision to let him go, Brian Geltzeiler of HoopsCritic.com tweets.
- An opposing GM placed the blame for McHale’s departure on Howard and Harden, saying, “A team with James Harden and Dwight Howard as the stars had to fire the coach? Gee, shocking,” Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.com relays (Twitter link).
- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called McHale’s firing, “preposterous,” Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com tweets. “It’s very disappointing to hear, but Kevin will be fine,” Carlisle added.
- Rockets team owner Leslie Alexander notes that it was Bickerstaff’s defensive acumen and the players’ familiarity with him that led to his appointment as interim coach, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com writes. “We spoke to him and we think he’s a good young coach with a lot of experience,” Alexander told Watkins. “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.“
- The Rockets appear to have demonstrated conflicting priorities with the team’s coaching staff, continually adding offensive-minded players while eschewing team defense, write Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. “Is this the first crack in the analytics revolution, where they start hanging the revolutionaries themselves?” [The Rockets] still haven’t figured out chemistry. They keep adding and adding, but none of it fits,” an NBA coach told Berger.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.