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Rockets Fire Kevin McHale, Promote J.B. Bickerstaff

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

11:13am: Morey has confirmed the move to reporters, as the team’s Twitter account notes. “The team was not responding to Kevin McHale,” Morey said, according to Feigen (Twitter link). “There is no time in the West.”

10:27am: Owner Leslie Alexander and the front office, including GM Daryl Morey and fellow executive Gersson Rosas, jointly made the decision, Wojnarowski writes in a full story. The organization has faith in Bickerstaff’s ability to become a successful head coach, but he’s not assured of the job for the long term, Wojnarowski adds.

10:04am: McHale confirmed his ouster, saying that he thought he would be able to turn the team around if given more time, but he doesn’t blame the Rockets for their decision to fire him, Feigen tweets. McHale had more meetings with players over the last four to six weeks than at any other point, he added, as Feigen also relays (Twitter link). It doesn’t sound as if McHale wants to retire even as he’s unsure what he’ll do next, according to Feigen (on Twitter).

9:00am: The Rockets have decided to fire coach Kevin McHale, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Wojnarowski indicates the move has already taken place, though the team has yet to make an announcement. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff will take over as interim head coach, with fellow assistant Chris Finch moving into the lead assistant’s role, Wojnarowski adds (on Twitter). Houston, expected to contend for the title this year, is just 4-7, and the team held a players-only meeting Tuesday. McHale earlier this week called out his team’s effort and defense and wouldn’t rule out benching marquee trade acquisition Ty Lawson from the starting lineup.

The Rockets signed McHale to a three-year, nearly $13MM extension on Christmas Eve last year, and he led the team to the Western Conference Finals in the spring. Still, the front office is cognizant of the level of talent on the roster this season and felt a need to remedy the team’s disappointing performance thus far, so the Rockets didn’t hesitate to make a move, Wojnarowski explains (Twitter link).

McHale, 57, entered the season as the NBA’s fifth-longest tenured head coach, having taken over the Rockets in June 2011. His old-school philosophy seemed an odd match for Houston’s analytically forward approach, but McHale nonetheless led the team to success. Houston had a winning record in each of McHale’s full seasons, with last year’s 56-26 mark the best of his tenure. His .598 regular season winning percentage is the best of all-time among Rockets coaches, notes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). He was 193-130 in the regular season and 13-16 in the playoffs overall with the Rockets. McHale went 39-55 over two separate stints as coach of the Timberwolves in the 2000s, and he didn’t coach Minnesota in a postseason game.

The vacancy in Houston, once the team makes the move official, will become one the league’s most attractive, though for now, Bickerstaff is poised to inherit the position. He was an assistant with the Hornets and Timberwolves before joining the Rockets along with McHale in 2011, and he’s the son of longtime NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

The job is not without its challenges. Dwight Howard isn’t playing in back-to-backs as the team tries to protect his health, and Donatas Motiejunas has yet to make an appearance as he recovers from back surgery. Sam Dekker, the team’s first-round pick this year, will have back surgery Friday and is expected to miss three months.

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10 thoughts on “Rockets Fire Kevin McHale, Promote J.B. Bickerstaff

  1. aarongill

    Wow this is surprising. I remember jb on the lakers when mike brown was fired and they went 4-0 with him. Maybe give him a shot. Let’s see who they hire now.

    • Dean Gant

      That was his father, Bernie, not JB.

      • aarongill

        No it was jb coaching the lakers and the rockets

  2. gucci7383

    terrible. season still young. i think they jumped the gun here… he got to the wcf last yr and you fire him after 11 games…

    • FormerlyZ

      Not only that, but he was smart enough to bench Harden multiple times against the Clippers, and they were able to win those games b/c of that

    • April Lawles

      I remember Coach McHale was loyal to the Rockets even during the death of his daughter. Where is our loyalty to him?

  3. Starship Pegasus

    Not surprising, nobody was responding to McHale at all this season. Effort has been an issue from the beginning and Lawson has yet to make any impact. 2 bad losses to Den, BK, Dal w/o their 3 best players, and a poor 2nd half performance against Bos, completely unacceptable.

  4. FormerlyZ

    Ridiculous decision

  5. Royaltee

    These new age owners nowadays do not understand the game of basketball. They’re so quick to put the blame on coaches when things go bad but reap all the accolades when the teams are doing well. I do not understand why these organizations dont follow the blueprint of San Antonio. Longevity due to continuity. San Antonio had some rough patches during the Pop years but he was never on the hot seat. Basketball is a game of streaks. More and more new basketball team owners do not possess basketball IQ to understand how a team is ran from locker room camaraderie, coaching staff lending an open ear, certain teammates hold certain players accountable, the ball boy giving your starting point guard the “pep talk”. Basically, the little things is what makes a successful basketball team. Not owners alone, not coaches alone and not players alone. When owners realize that coaches and basketball players are human beings who go through their ups and downs, that when organization will be ran in a much efficient rate. Right now, owners are coming out from behind the fantasy world and applying game strategies to real life. I feel sorry for Mchale, Even for Monty Williams who did a great job with what he had last year, now look at Gentry with basically the same team. Injuries? Monty dealt with those as well and made the most of it. Parlayed into an 8th seed. Good luck with that this year. Coaching and building a team takes a very long time and patience. Not in 11 games!!

  6. WeThePeople2387

    Typical Rockets move. Kevin McHale will get picked up quickly. He’s a good coach.

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