When the Houston Rockets defeated the Chicago Bulls 118-113 Wednesday night, the team departed the floor of the Toyota Center with a sigh of relief. The Rockets won a game for the first time since Oct. 22, which ended their 15-game losing streak a day before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The win over the Bulls gave the players a brief break from the consistent gloom that dwelled over the locker room for 34 consecutive days. But perhaps the victory against Chicago gave coach Stephen Silas his most significant vindication to date.
Twelve hours before the Rockets took to the court, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report reported that the Rockets are currently “weighing the future” of their lead man — putting Silas’ future as Houston’s head coach in doubt.
With rumblings about his job security growing and with owner Tilman Fertitta sitting courtside, Silas produced possibly the best coaching performance of his career.
“Obviously, I would sleep better tonight and it will be a good day tomorrow. I have so much to be thankful for in my life. This position. My players. This organization. And this city. I am going to take a moment to enjoy the win and not wake up in the middle of the night. I believe in what I do, and I think I am good at it.” — Silas
At 48-years-old, the inevitable uncertainty of a coach’s job isn’t foreign to Silas — especially one that’s in command of a daunting rebuild similar to the Rockets. And given the inferior results of the team through the first 18 games of the season, Silas is not shying away from the criticism.
He witnessed firsthand how to block out the outside noise from his dad — Paul Silas — whose last two coaching jobs in the NBA consisted of rebuilding projects with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2005) and Charlotte Bobcats (2010-2012).
Each time his dad faced the same skeptic, Silas said his father would “power through” as he studied from afar as an assistant coach. And despite the reports, Silas says he still feels he has the support of both Fertitta and general manager Rafael Stone.
“I’ve been waiting and preparing my whole life for this job, and I am not going to make it worse than what it is. I’m going to coach these guys as hard as I can and do the things, I believe in. When you go through these streaks, there is a lot to it, and I am ready for everything. Ready for us to continue to get better and look back on this time and say, ‘Remember when?’” — Silas
After accumulating a coaching record of 18-71, it is appropriate to criticize Silas and ponder whether or not his coaching philosophy is sustainable following his first 89 games as the Rockets’ head coach. But he has still managed to gain the respect and admiration of his peers, despite the continuous losing.
Prior to the game, Bulls’ coach Billy Donovan put Silas’ unfortunate struggles in perspective. Donovan believes that the Rockets are not that far away from re-establishing themselves as one of the NBA’s premier teams — but highlighted the unpleasant circumstances Silas has faced with the roster overhaul since he took over for Mike D’Antoni in October of 2020.
“Stephen is a great guy. When you go through the year that he had last year and now you are trying to build something, those things take time. He knows what he is doing, and he is a very good coach. Guys are playing extremely hard for him, and they have a lot to build from.” — Donovan
Even though his ambivalent future with the team administered an additional murk over the franchise before the opening tip, Silas was more satisfied with the win for his players than himself.
From Danuel House Jr. coming off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 18 points, to Kevin Porter Jr. appearing more comfortable facilitating the ball as the team’s starting point guard with nine assists. Silas was ecstatic to see his players have a breakthrough performance against the Bulls following weeks of penury.
With the 12-8 Charlotte Hornets coming to town on Saturday, another victory could prolong Silas’ inevitable departure, as a win would give him his first winning streak since the Rockets registered six consecutive games at the height of the W.O.W factor in late January.
While a win against the Hornets could buy more time as the Rockets’ head coach, ending a 15-game losing skid in front of Fertitta and Stone may have bought Silas an extra night on the job — which will be an additional blessing for Silas to count this Thanksgiving.
“I don’t need a win for my approval. Whether we win or lose, I am going to be the same coach.” — Silas