Rockets owner: J.B. Bickerstaff has coaching job until season’s end

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The Rockets named J.B. Bickerstaff interim coach after firing Kevin McHale.

But coaching free agents like Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy loom as potential replacements.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Can J.B. win this job?

Alexander: Of course he can. If the team responds to him and we win, of course he can.

He’s here until the end of the season, and then you’re going to re-evaluate him. That correct?

Alexander: 100 percent.

Alexander, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“The team was obviously not responding on on offense; on defense we weren’t playing hard. It continued for a while.

“I’ve never seen my team play as poorly and with less effort. I’m not attributing it to the coach. I had to do something.”

Houston fired McHale, as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey explained, have a very slim margin for error in the Western Conference. This is a talented team that entered the season with championship hopes. The idea behind firing McHale is making a title realistic once again.

Might that be a job for a more experienced coach than Bickerstaff?

Apparently, Alexander wants to give the unproven Bickerstaff a chance.

Alexander is in 23rd season owning the team. The Rockets’ worst finish in that span is 28-54, and two 34-48 seasons are the only other losing seasons. So, Alexander’s extreme dissatisfaction is understandable. Houston has almost always been good, sometimes great, under his watch.

That means Bickerstaff faces a high bar to stick beyond this season. It’s possible he clears it. He’s defensive-minded, and the Rockets have been awful on that end. He might also connect better with James Harden, who has reportedly put off teammates.

At least Bickerstaff has a chance to prove himself.