As a Rockets fanatic and Houston non resident I was able to watch most of last year's Rockets via League Pass and I had an absolute blast. There were 2 individuals that I usually ended up harping on at the end of games in these forums, Lin and McHale, for some boneheaded turnover or poor substitution or whatever the case may be. My opinion of McHale's fit with the team has changed somewhat but I read something on Red94 the other day that kinda crystallized some of what I thought so I'll get into how I viewed McHale last year and what I think next year holds (at least from a coaching perspective). We're going to look at where we were last year and what's different this year.
1) McHale was much too dependent on Delfino in the stretch 4 role. My disdain for the concept of a true 3 playing the 4 is well documented. When a player like Parsons (6'9 and can grab the occasional rebound) plays the 4, you can squint and tilt your head and see how that may work. When you ask a player like Delfino to take on the defensive responsibility of guarding a player that is at least 6'9 and much heavier, you're playing with fire more often than not. This was always McHale's go to move. It worked on occasion but when he'd pull it out against teams with larger front lines (Detroit, Mil, Lakers, etc) you could see the match up issues. I wanted coach to understand the situations better and adjust his strategy to his opponent much better. Jones, DMo, Smith all could have and should have been groomed for spot duty in a more traditional 4 role for when you're facing a larger more traditional 4 especially in crunch time when you need a defensive stop or a rebound.
What changed: We don't quite know yet, games haven't been played yet. I will say I'm hopeful this has been corrected, not necessarily because I think his coaching philosophy has changed but because our personnel has. He almost has to give Asik minutes, so the super small ball lineups are out. DMo and Jones have both put in significant times shoring up their weaknesses so they should be more ready to jump into minutes at the 4. Also, the default "Delfino" candidate is Casspi and he's more physically suited for the role. So I think Morey fixed this one for him, at least in theory.
2) That hyper speed pace was unsustainable. It killed us on games where we had no rest and wore the team down by the end of the year. On this same note, we really didn't have much of a halfcourt offense which lead to the much maligned Harden iso ball clutch shots. These things have been attributed to many things... from the Harden trade to a lack of X and 0 coaching chops from coach.
What changed: Dwight Howard. His insistence on getting touches in the post should force the team to slow down, at least a bit, and help give us more of a half court offense. I think everyone benefits from slowing down a little but once we do slow down, then X's and O's become more important and I still worry about McHale being ready to become more of a tactician. I was encouraged by what we saw in the playoffs, as far as execution, substitutions, and gameplan, but I still think it's a pretty big question mark.
3) Lack of development of the rooks. I think Jones could have been a consistent contributor all season, but the coaching staff pulled the plug on his minutes pretty quickly. From the reports we've heard on DMo and Jones both are working hard and improving and I don't think that either was ever lazy or unwilling to learn and do what the team asked them to, so I question the logic in the D league assignment for both. Keeping one up, letting him train with the big clubs coaching staff and giving him some of those Delfino minutes could have jump started their development.
What changed: Not much but the guys that were rooks aren't any more and they've had a solid summer of preparation. I think Morey chimed in on his reddit session and said that Jones has been impressive (and Lin has said the same in interviews) so I'm confident in saying that Jones will be ready. Canaan, this year's only rookie, isn't at a position of need (though I could see him being a major contributor if Lin isn't re-signed), and has been dinged up. Hopefully we won't need a 4th guard, so taking a slower route with him won't take away from the team at all.
I'm cautiously optimistic about McHale this year. If he has the X's and O's in him and last year he just didn't have time to flesh out his system, then I think the team can fit together wonderfully. He's a good figurehead with great personality and seems to know how to keep the kids motivated but that will only take you so far in this league. If he (or his staff) can institute a solid gameplan then there's no reason why we can't be title contender.
This is the article that got me thinking about the topic:
under the bullet point "rankage"
Feel free to chime in....