The Rockets and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell have mutual interest in a potential partnership, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link).
Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Rockets for the past four seasons, informed the franchise earlier on Sunday that he he won’t be returning. Several figures around the league view Cassell as a strong head coaching candidate, including current Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
“Sam Cassell should be a head coach, period,” Rivers said earlier this week. “He’s got an incredibly high basketball IQ, and I just hope he gets a shot. … When they talk about paying dues, he’s paid every due that is possible and he’s yet to get a job. So, I’m hoping that happens.”
Houston will likely consider other coaches for the job, with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue being a second potential candidate, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Marc Stein of the New York Times (via Twitter) also mentioned Jeff Van Gundy as a name that’s surfaced in recent coaching rumblings.
Cassell, 50, was drafted by the Rockets with the No. 24 pick in 1993. He spent the first three years of his career with the franchise, winning two titles, and went on to play 15 NBA seasons with several teams, winning another championship with the Celtics in 2008. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Wizards from 2009-14 and has worked for the Clippers ever since.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is expected to remain with the team and will face increased pressure to build a championship roster around Russell Westbrook and James Harden. In addition to finding a new head coach, the team also has several players set to reach free agency this offseason, including Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and likely Austin Rivers ($2.43M player option).