With the nightmare season finally over, the Rockets can turn their attention to remaking and reloading the squad in the offseason, and the first step in that process is settling on a new head coach.
Current interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff is said to still be a candidate, but with early rumored front-runners Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks off the market, the Rockets have turned their attention to ex-coach Jeff Van Gundy, and now they've officially asked the Golden State Warriors for permission to interview assistant coach Luke Walton.
After being eliminated by GSW, Rockets received permission to interview asst. coach Luke Walton for coach job, sources told @TheUndefeated.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) April 28, 2016
Walton, who led the Warriors to a 39-4 record in Steve Kerr's absence, is apparently the leading candidate for the open head coaching gig with L.A. Lakers, though it is worth mentioning that Walton's father, Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, has gone on record saying he would advise his son against taking the Lakers position.
With Van Gundy and Walton the now top outside names for the search in H-town, the Rockets couldn't be looking a two more opposite candidates. Van Gundy is a defense-first disciplinarian known for a series of tough-minded squads with both the Rockets and the New York Knicks that he could never quite get over the top.
He last paced the hardwood sideline in 2007, however, so it's been almost ten years since he's led a professional team, and the game has changed a lot since then. Van Gundy was famous for the dark circles under his eyes and an oft-cranky personality (albeit from the long hours he put in) 10 years ago, so it's unknown how he would handle the rigors of teaching today's much different and faster-paced playing style.
Walton, much like Bickerstaff, is known more as a player's coach. His young age (he's only 36) and the fact that he played in the NBA and won two rings during his time with the Lakers draws respect in the locker room and makes him relatable to most players.
He's also more offensive-minded than Van Gundy, and he's been the partial architect of the Golden State system that's incorporated elements of the Phil Jackson triangle with the more open style of today that's resulted in the record-setting 73-win juggernaut in Oakland. It remains to be seen, however, how effective Walton would be starting with a clean slate as the main man in a new city.
How do you feel about the names being floated out there right now? Do you prefer Walton? Van Gundy? How about retaining Bickerstaff? Or someone else entirely?