1:30pm: Van Gundy is no longer a candidate for the position, Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reports (via Twitter). The former coach and current broadcaster was interested in the slot, but he and the team never formally spoke, the scribe adds.
12:48pm: Sixers associate head coach Mike D’Antoni has emerged as the frontrunner to become the Rockets next head coach, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle relays. Though the offensive-minded coach has moved to the front of the line for the vacant post, a number of steps need to be completed before any contract offer is made, Feigen adds.
Talks between D’Antoni and Houston have been ongoing, but there are two other coaches who can be considered finalists for the position, Feigen adds, though the scribe doesn’t relay the names of those finalists. D’Antoni has met with representatives from the organization twice, including a sit-down with team owner Leslie Alexander. The 65-year-old has an overall record of 455-426 in the regular season as a head coach and was named as the 2004/05 Coach of the Year.
The emergence of D’Antoni is an interesting development and could potentially cause friction between Alexander an GM Daryl Morey. The owner reportedly wants the team to run an up-tempo offense, which is D’Antoni’s forte, but Morey is said to be seeking a more defensive-minded coach who will instill greater accountability in the team’s roster. A compromise may be in order, with Houston likely to add a strong defensive assistant to the staff if D’Antoni is hired. Grizzlies assistant Jeff Bzdelik is among the coaches the Rockets would consider for that purpose, but they have not interviewed Bzdelik nor been granted permission from Memphis to meet with him, Feigen relays. Bzdelik will be among those considered for the Grizzlies vacant head coaching position, the scribe adds.
The Rockets have also met with former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, Clippers assistant Sam Cassell, Hornets assistant Stephen Silas and Rockets assistant Chris Finch. Former Pacers coach Frank Vogel and Spurs assistant Ettore Messina are also part of the process, a person with knowledge of talks told Feigen. Messina reportedly interviewed with the team on Saturday, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Former interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff and former Rockets guard Kenny Smith were also interviewed, but Bickerstaff withdrew from consideration and Smith was told he was no longer a candidate as the Rockets decided to focus on coaches with either head coaching experience or extensive experience as an assistant, Feigen notes.
Jeff Van Gundy, who is also a candidate, has received strong support from Morey for the position, but Alexander reportedly has yet to be fully sold on a reunion with the ESPN analyst, who has been away from coaching since he and Houston parted ways back in May of 2007.