John Lucas

Rockets Hire Stephen Silas As Head Coach

OCTOBER 30: The Rockets have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve hired Silas as their new head coach. Team owner Tilman Fertitta referred to the opportunity as “well-earned and long overdue” for Silas.

“The success Coach Silas had with Dallas last season reinforced the notion that he is more than ready to lead his own team,” GM Rafael Stone said in a statement of his own. “The strengths of our core players are a great fit for Coach Silas’ system and ideology and I’m looking forward to working with him to find ways we can continue to improve our roster.”

OCTOBER 28: The Rockets and Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas are finalizing a deal that will make him the team’s new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Silas had been one of three presumed finalists for the position, along with former NBA head coaches Jeff Van Gundy and John Lucas.

Van Gundy and Lucas were rumored to be the frontrunners to replace Mike D’Antoni in Houston at various points during the Rockets’ head coaching search process, but the Rockets opted for a first-time head coach rather than a veteran with experience in the role.

Silas, the son of former NBA star and coach Paul Silas, was hired in 1999 as a scout by the franchise known at the time as the Charlotte Hornets and has since served as an assistant on a number of NBA coaching staffs. After spending four years as an assistant with Golden State from 2006-10 and eight years with the Bobcats/Hornets from 2010-18, he moved to Dallas in 2018, where he spent the last two years as a member of Rick Carlisle‘s staff.

Silas has received consideration for multiple head coaching jobs in recent years, having reportedly drawn interest from Indiana and Chicago this year in addition to Houston. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), the Rockets were impressed with Silas’ “offensive ingenuity,” as well as his pedigree as an assistant.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), the Rockets moved “increasingly” over the weekend toward Silas. He had a Zoom call with many Houston players last night, which represented an important final step, since those players were all on board with the decision, a source tells Feigen.

As Woj points out, Silas will be tasked with coaching and running an offense for former MVPs Russell Westbrook and James Harden after having worked with a handful of other star guards during his career as an assistant, including Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, and Kemba Walker. He’ll also oversee a period of transition within the franchise — in addition to making a head coaching change, the Rockets have also undergone a major front office overhaul this fall, with longtime GM Daryl Morey leaving the organization.

The Rockets are expected to help Silas build an experienced coaching staff that includes at least two former head coaches, according to Feigen. The team has begun talks with Nate McMillan and Jeff Hornacek, and will likely make Lucas an offer to remain with the franchise, either as an assistant or in a new capacity, Feigen adds.

With Silas poised to become the Rockets’ new coach, only one NBA team – the Thunder – has yet to finalize its head coaching search.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Lucas Now Favorite To Be Rockets’ Next Head Coach?

OCTOBER 22: Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski stated that Jeff Van Gundy‘s conversations with the Rockets have continued and that JVG has remained “the focus” of Houston’s search (video link). That contradicts Windhorst’s report (below), which strongly suggested that Lucas and Silas were more serious candidates than Van Gundy.

Both ESPN reporters at least agree that Lucas, Van Gundy, and Silas remain the frontrunners in Houston, in some order. It seems likely – albeit not 100% certain – that someone from that group will become the Rockets’ next head coach.

OCTOBER 21: “Circumstances have changed” in the Rockets‘ search for a head coach, making John Lucas the favorite for the job and seemingly leaving Jeff Van Gundy out of the equation, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. He made the comments today during an appearance on The Jump (video link), adding that Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas is among those still in the mix.

According to Windhorst, many people around the league believe Lucas’ strong relationship with Rockets players and new general manager Rafael Stone gives him the inside track for the position. Lucas, 66, hasn’t been a head coach since 2003, but he is a long-time assistant and has served as a player development coach in Houston since 2016. He had brief stints as a head coach with the Spurs, Sixers and Cavaliers, compiling a 173-258 record.

Windhorst adds that the Rockets lost several coaching candidates when GM Daryl Morey decided to resign last week. Tyronn Lue, who had been considered one of the favorites for the job in Houston, agreed to stay with the Clippers and become their head coach. Other potential candidates who have been identified are former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool and Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr.

With the Pacers and Pelicans filling vacancies in the past two days, the Rockets and Thunder are the only remaining teams without a head coach. Windhorst notes that the Rockets don’t have any picks in the Nov. 18 draft, so there’s no pressure to hire someone right away to handle pre-draft workouts.

Rockets Coaching Candidates Knew Of Morey’s Decision

While Daryl Morey’s decision to step down as the Rockets’ GM surfaced this week, he said that coaching candidates were notified during the interviewing process that he was departing, Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

Morey made up his mind nearly a month ago, a day after the team was eliminated from the Western Conference playoffs. Family considerations were the main reason why he chose to leave at this time.

“I mean he just said, ‘You know, I’m kind of just struggling and don’t know what I want to do,’” owner Tilman Fertitta said. “To tell y’all, when we signed Daryl’s last extension, Daryl told me, ‘You know, I’m not going to always be here (and) when my last son graduates (I might leave).'”

Head coach Mike D’Antoni decided he didn’t want to remain in the organization on the plane ride home and Morey said all of D’Antoni’s potential replacements were told that he was headed out, as well.

“We’ve been up front with all the candidates that this was coming and they’ve been respectful to not have it get out early,” said Morey, who added that D’Antoni’s parting did not impact his decision. “It’s been baked in.”

The Athletic duo, though, said that it hasn’t been quite that transparent. At least two of those candidates were uncertain why Rafael Stone, the executive VP of basketball operations who is replacing Morey as GM, was leading the interviewing process. They were not directly told Morey was going to step down.

Morey had essentially been operating as a consultant the past few weeks, The Athletic confirmed.

Houston has interviewed Jeff Van Gundy, Ty Lue, Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, David Vanterpool, Wes Unseld Jr., and John Lucas for the vacant coaching job. Lue has agreed to coach the Clippers, while Van Gundy, Silas and Lucas appear to be the top remaining candidates for the Rockets.

Rockets’ Coaching Search Focused On JVG, Silas, Lucas

2:49pm: Lucas’ bid to be promoted to head coach has continued to gain momentum, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, who says that James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Stone are among Lucas’ “key admirers” in Houston (Twitter links).

2:24pm: Tyronn Lue was believed to be one of the top candidates for the Rockets‘ head coaching opening, but now that Lue is off the board, Houston is focusing its search on three other primary candidates, sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). According to MacMahon, those candidates are Jeff Van Gundy, Stephen Silas, and John Lucas.

Van Gundy, who met with Rockets ownership and management on Wednesday, extended those conversations with the team into Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) and Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Within his story, Feigen wrote that the Rockets intend to have follow-up interviews with a handful of finalists. Based on MacMahon’s report, it sounds like Van Gundy, Silas, and Lucas could be the candidates brought in for those follow-up meetings.

The Rockets also interviewed Lue, Kenny Atkinson, David Vanterpool, and Wes Unseld Jr. for their head coaching job earlier in the process.

If Atkinson, Vanterpool, and Unseld are now out of the running and Houston chooses from its group of three presumed finalists, the team will end up hiring someone who either hasn’t been an NBA head coach for more than a decade (Van Gundy, Lucas) or is a first-time head coach (Silas).

The Rockets are completing their head coaching search amidst a front office overhaul, as longtime general manager Daryl Morey has reportedly stepped down from his position.

Houston appears to be staying in-house for Morey’s replacement, promoting executive VP of basketball operations Rafael Stone to GM, so the team won’t have to worry about an incoming executive wanting a say in the coaching hire. Morey is reportedly sticking around in an advisory role until a new head coach has been hired.

Latest On Rockets’ Head Coaching Search

The Rockets‘ pool of candidates to replace Mike D’Antoni as the team’s new head coach still consists of seven names for now, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. According to Feigen, the club hasn’t ruled out expanding the interview process beyond those seven candidates, but has been “pleased” with its meetings so far.

Houston met last week with current assistant coaches Stephen Silas (Mavericks), David Vanterpool (Timberwolves), and Wes Unseld Jr. (Nuggets), as well as former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

According to Feigen, team officials have since met with Rockets player development coach John Lucas as well, and Tyronn Lue‘s interview is scheduled to happen today. Jeff Van Gundy is also expected to interview with Houston now that his broadcasting duties for ABC and ESPN have come to an end for the season.

It’s not clear yet whether the Rockets will be prepared to make a decision on their new head coach after completing their meetings with Lue and Van Gundy. As Feigen writes, it’s possible the team will want to narrow down the field and bring back finalists for follow-up sessions, but team owner Tilman Fertitta has been part of the interview process already, so it’s not as if contenders for the position still need to meet with him.

The Rockets are one of five NBA teams still seeking a new head coach, along with the Pelicans, Pacers, Thunder, and Clippers.

Latest On Rockets’ Head Coaching Search

The Rockets are scheduled to meet with Tyronn Lue about their head coaching job early next week, sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). Lue’s interview with Houston was originally supposed to happen this past Sunday, but it has now seemingly been pushed back twice as the team takes its time and meets with other candidates.

The Rockets reportedly interviewed Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., and Stephen Silas this week and are meeting with David Vanterpool today. According to Stein, the club is also expected to meet in the “near future” with assistant John Lucas and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy.

Once the NBA Finals end and Van Gundy’s schedule opens up, we should get a better sense of how serious the Rockets are about pursuing him. He has reportedly been on general manager Daryl Morey‘s radar in the past and was one of the first candidates linked to the Houston job, even before the team parted ways with Mike D’Antoni.

Appearing on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast this week, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon stated that Van Gundy is still believed to be high on the Rockets’ list.

“I still think Jeff Van Gundy is probably the favorite, but they’re definitely doing their due diligence,” MacMahon said (link via RealGM). “… Really, I think the most important thing for the coaching candidates is going to be aligning with Daryl Morey and his vision in terms of basketball philosophy as well as who is going to be on that staff because we all know Daryl Morey is very hands on in terms of putting together a coach’s staff.”

Another factor worth monitoring as the Rockets seek a new head coach is how much team owner Tilman Fertitta will be willing to pay to fill the role.

Since Fertitta’s arrival, Houston has made an apparent effort to avoid finishing seasons in luxury-tax territory. The Rockets also reportedly offered D’Antoni an extension heavy on non-guaranteed incentives last offseason. If the organization is unwilling to make a significant financial commitment to its next head coach, it would presumably reduce the odds of an experienced candidate like Lue or Van Gundy taking the job.

John Lucas Emerging As Coaching Candidate For Rockets

Veteran coach John Lucas is an emerging candidate in the Rockets‘ search for a new head coach, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

As Stein notes (via Twitter), Lucas has spent the last four seasons working as a player development coach on Mike D’Antoni‘s staff in Houston, and has developed strong relationships with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

A former first overall pick as an NBA player, Lucas transitioned to coaching in the early 1990s and has spent time as a head coach for the Spurs, Sixers, and Cavaliers. The 66-year-old was also an assistant for the Nuggets and Clippers before eventually joining the Rockets in 2016.

According to reports in August, Lucas was among the coaches who made a strong impression on players with his comments during the meeting in the Orlando bubble as they weighed whether or not to resume the season following their boycott.

Houston is taking its time as it seeks a replacement for D’Antoni, having reportedly met with Tyronn Lue on Sunday. Former NBA head coaches Jeff Van Gundy and Kenny Atkinson have also been linked to the job, as have current assistants like Sam Cassell, David Vanterpool, and Chris Finch.

Coaching Rumors: Lue, Sixers, Pelicans, Kidd, Lucas, Walton

Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue is expected to be one of the NBA’s most popular head coaching candidates this offseason, having already been connected to at least three job openings.

As we relayed on Wednesday, Lue reportedly sought $7MM per year when he was in negotiations with the Lakers last year about their head coaching job. And Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer cites a league source who says Lue will once again be looking for $7MM annually in his talks with the teams this time around.

[RELATED: Tyronn Lue, Chauncey Billups May Be Package Deal]

While Lue’s asking price remains high, it sounds like he could be more open to compromise this year. Pompey suggests that the former Cavaliers coach may end up settling for $5-6MM per year. That would be good news for teams like the Pelicans, who are reportedly budgeting about $5.5MM annually for their next head coach, and the Sixers, who will still have to pay Brett Brown $10MM over the next two years.

Here’s more on Lue, along with other NBA head coaching rumors:

  • We’ve heard that the Sixers and Lue have mutual interest, but Philadelphia will face plenty of competition. The Pelicans are expected to pursue Lue “hard,” according to Pompey, who adds that the former NBA guard is also “monitoring” the Bulls‘ coaching vacancy. Lue is considered a strong candidate for the Nets as well — he expects to receive an offer from Brooklyn, as Pompey has reported.
  • Lakers assistant Jason Kidd is interested in the Sixers‘ head coaching job, league sources tell Pompey. Pompey also reports that Rockets player development coach John Lucas is interested in the 76ers’ job. It’s not clear how seriously Philadelphia will reciprocate either coach’s interest.
  • The Kings are making it clear to potential GM candidates that they don’t intend to replace head coach Luke Walton prior to the 2020/21 season, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. However, Anderson notes that Walton’s position will still be somewhat precarious, as he’ll essentially be “auditioning for his own job” next season.

Rockets Notes: D’Antoni, Travel Details, Tucker

69-year-old Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who says he has cleared his medical screenings with Houston, has flown with the team to Orlando, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). Though D’Antoni was granted no “formal NBA thumbs up,” as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets, the league also did not restrict D’Antoni’s campus attendance following the medical clearance.

D’Antoni is the league’s second-oldest head coach, after 71-year-old Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. The 40-24 Rockets are currently the No. 6 seed in the West, 1.5 games clear of the seventh-seeded Mavericks.

There’s more out of Houston:

  • D’Antoni and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey are relishing the opportunity for the team to practice together ahead of the league’s scheduled July 30 restart, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Because we had a major change in the components of the team, we do think a second training camp benefits us,” Morey said. “Because when you’re integrating a starter onto a very good team, getting more time to drill… will allow us to integrate (Robert) Covington in, and I do think that slightly favors us.”
  • Rockets All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook did not travel with the rest of the team to Orlando today, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter link). They are expected to arrive later this week. Newly-signed substitute player Luc Mbah a Moute and player development coach John Lucas also did not travel with the rest of the Rockets, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • 35-year-old Rockets forward/center and defensive stalwart P.J. Tucker has indicated that he would like an extension on his current four-year contract, which expires after the 2020/21 season, per Fox 26 Houston’s Mark Berman (Twitter link). “I want to retire as a Houston Rocket,” Tucker said. “The fans, the city have embraced me since day one. So fingers crossed, I hope we can strike a deal and get it done.”

Rockets Notes: House, D’Antoni, Blossomgame, Shabazz

Danuel House credits Rockets assistant coach John Lucas for helping him to stay focused when it appeared his NBA dream may not work out, writes Sean Deveney for Forbes. House reached out to Lucas after being waived by the Wizards in March of 2017. A broken wrist had sidelined him for more than two months and he had gotten into just one game – less than a minute of playing time – with his first NBA team.

“Shut your mouth,” said Lucas, who first met House at age 13 at a Houston basketball camp. “Shut your mouth and get ready for your next opportunity.”

That came the following year with the Suns, but House found a more permanent home last season with the Rockets. He spent most of the year as a two-way player, but started 13 NBA games and eventually earned a three-year contract.

“I also told him he would be an NBA player,” Lucas recalled. “You could see he was good enough for that. I just never imagined we’d be together with the same team.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Mike D’Antoni was among the first coaches to successfully challenge a call, but he doesn’t believe teams should keep their right to challenge if they’re correct, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Under the newly adopted rule, coaches get to use the challenge once per game, whether they’re right or wrong. “Then you could have 20 or 30 challenges a game,” D’Antoni said. “I could see why they don’t do it.”
  • The Rockets’ G League affiliate has traded for Jaron Blossomgame, who was with Houston during the preseason. Blossomgame’s returning player rights were held by the Canton Charge, who agreed to give him up in exchange for Gary Payton II. Blossomgame impressed Rockets coaches during camp, and he was considered as a candidate for one of the team’s two-way slots.
  • The Rockets weren’t able to hold onto Ronshad Shabazz after signing and waiving him last weekend. Shabazz was selected by College Park, the Hawks‘ affiliate, with the 13th pick in Saturday’s G League draft.