Multiple reports have former Rockets head coach and current ESPN NBA color commentator Jeff Van Gundy as the leading candidate to replace interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff as the Houston Rockets head coach. While nothing is official, a tweet by Journal Times basketball insider Gery Woelfel has set off a firestorm of speculation.
Source says Jeff Van Gundy remains a finalist and, may indeed be the frontrunner, for Rockets coaching position.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) May 13, 2016
The story has since been picked up by several media outlets, including NBC Sports and also Larry Brown Sports. Multiple blogs have also dovetailed off of those reports, including Fansided, Awful Announcing, and of course, now yours truly.
Van Gundy later went on to coach the Houston Rockets from 2003 - 2007, the meat of the Yao-McGrady years, and though he finished with a 182-146 record and made the playoffs in three out of his four seasons as head coach, he could never get the team past the first round, losing to the Lakers, Mavericks and Jazz.
Van Gundy is known as a defensive tactician and a coach with high expectations of his players, which is likely the attractive point for the Rockets front office should he actually be hired. And his .575 career coaching win percentage is certainly nothing to scoff at, despite the lack of postseason success.
It remains to be seen how Van Gundy would adapt to today's NBA game if hired, as it's been close to a decade since he last paced an NBA sideline with his oft-cranky persona and dark circles under his eyes, but his years following the game as an analyst have likely given him added perspective on the nuances of an evolving League.
He's always been regarded as one of the hardest working guys around, so there's no doubt he'd put in the time, and he does have experience managing big names and big personalities in both New York and Houston in his first coaching go-around. He's also a name that draws respect in the locker room, something the Rockets sorely need.
He's never been known as an offensive innovator, however, so if this actually materializes, I'd be curious to hear about the staff surrounding Van Gundy and the influence they'll have on a squad ripe for a reload.
Apparently, we won't have long to wait, with Woelfel claiming the Rockets plan on having this all wrapped up by next week. And then this offseason will truly get exciting, as we move beyond discussing the coach and onto how to remake the roster after an underachieving season.
Houston Rockets are heading to the finishing line in finding a new coach. Are expected to have a deal done by late next week.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) May 13, 2016