On April 18, the Houston Rockets and coach Rick Adelman split ways because both parties wanted to do something different. Now the Rockets are forced to do some shopping for a new coach.
The list of suitors for the job is long including ex-players, ex-coaches and current assistant coaches. Who is good enough to fill the shoes of Adelman?
Adelman’s shoes are Shaquille O’Neal size as he ranks eighth in league history with 945 career wins, led the Rockets to their first playoff series victory since 1997 and brought his team to the playoffs year in and year out with his two best players, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, on the injured list. In his four seasons with Houston, Adelman went 193-135.
The names of new fish are well-known for the most part. The most known guy on the board is former Boston Celtic player and Minnesota Timberwolves GM and coach Kevin McHale. The other names on the list consist of: Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, Rockets assistant coach Jack Sikma, former Rockets player Mario Ellie, former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Washington Wizards assistant coach and former Houston point guard Sam Cassell, and ex-Cleveland Cavalier coach Mike Brown.
All of the nominees have coaching experience whether it’s in the college ranks or as an assistant coach. Brown, McHale and Woodson are the only three with NBA head coaching experience.
Even though those three have the top tier references on their resumes, I would go with some new blood. McHale couldn’t do anything with Kevin Garnett in his prime except go to one Western Conference Finals. The rest of the years had everyone wondering when Garnett will ask for a trade.
Woodson had all the talent in the world with the Hawks in Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford, but he couldn’t get Atlanta anywhere. The Hawks were swept in the second round of the playoffs the last two years.
Brown went to the NBA Finals in 2007 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009 behind superstar LeBron James. However, he couldn’t get the job done with arguably the best player in the game. I said arguably towards being the best basketball player but he is the most athletic.
Why not give someone new a chance?
Sampson helped the Bucks make it to the playoffs last season and they would have returned this season if it wasn’t for injuries. He coached for University of Oklahoma and Indiana University. College coaches usually don’t work in the NBA but he has had a stint on the sideline behind a solid coach in Scott Skiles.
Elie and Cassell don’t have any head coach experience but they played in the league for what feels like forever and they have both spent time as assistants. Elie has had jobs with four different teams and Cassell has been the main mentor behind Washington rookie John Wall. I don’t know much about Sikma except for the fact that he sat next to Adelman and helped the Rockets win games with under privileged players.
If I was the owner of the Rockets I would hire Sampson. I mentioned above the three experienced coaches left me with a sour taste in my mouth, the two players probably should be assistants for a little longer and I don’t know Sikma.
Sampson has been the head guy of teams and did a solid job as Skiles right hand man with a real young roster in Milwaukee. The situation in Houston is extremely similar to the environment around the Bucks. Both teams have top notch athletes who can’t stay healthy, but have a young solid nucleus to work with. It would be better to bring in someone used to these circumstances.
I’m not saying he is going to win more rings than Phil Jackson, but I seriously think he can turn the Rockets franchise around from a non-playoff team to post season threat. If he got hired it would crazy to say the Rockets would be higher than a six seed unless they made some roster changes. On the other hand, he could definitely make it to the post season and give the higher seeds a run for their money.
After one season, he would be ready to prove a college coach can make it in the NBA.