Coaching Rumors: Bickerstaff, Messina, McHale

Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be among the coaches the Rockets consider as they seek to formally name a head coach after the season, and he and his staff have the respect of the team’s players, writes Calvin Watkins of Bickerstaff, who took over for the fired Kevin McHale once the team started 4-7, was unable to win at the rate most expected of the Rockets coming into the season, Watkins notes, suggesting that’ll be a stumbling block to the removal of his interim tag. Still, owner Leslie Alexander nonetheless praised Bickerstaff’s winning record of 37-34 during the regular season, and the playoff berth the Rockets snagged on the final night of the regular season was apparently a significant help to Bickerstaff’s chances. Alexander and GM Daryl Morey anticipate James Harden having a role in the team’s decision, though Dwight Howard, whom the Rockets expect to opt out, is unlikely to have a say, according to Watkins.

See more coaching news from around the NBA:

  • The Lakers will give Spurs assistant Ettore Messina strong consideration for their coaching vacancy if they can’t land Warriors assistant Luke Walton, as Marc Stein of hears (Twitter links). L.A. has asked for and received permission from San Antonio to interview Messina, a one-time Lakers assistant, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
  • Multiple people have told Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that McHale isn’t fond of California, casting doubt on the idea that he’d take the Kings coaching job, though Jones cautions that he isn’t entirely sure whether McHale indeed holds a low opinion of the location (Twitter link). The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that McHale was on the fence about whether to interview for the gig, though Stein wrote more recently that McHale and the Kings have had exploratory talks.
  • A close friendship with new GM Scott Layden, the potential of Minnesota’s roster and a belief that Glen Taylor is committed to winning are reasons Tom Thibodeau cited to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune as he spoke about his decision to become coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Thibodeau said that having the dual coach/executive title the Wolves gave him wasn’t a make-or-break element to the deal. “It wasn’t an absolute must, but I’m glad it has worked out that way,” Thibodeau said. “I just wanted to make sure I had a voice. The person I’m with, I trust Scott. He has great integrity. He’s a great worker and he has great experience.”
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