Mike D’Antoni is reportedly “a frontrunner” to become the Rockets’ next coach.
But they’re still conducting interviews.
The Houston Rockets were in the process Thursday of conducting three more interviews for their head-coaching vacancy, but signs continue to point strongly to the team hiring Mike D’Antoni as their next coach, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey traveled to Cleveland to hold separate interviews with Toronto Raptors assistant coach Rex Kalamian, Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas and Memphis Grizzlies assistant Jeff Bzdelik.
Sources say Houston received permission from the respective teams that employ those coaches to interview them. But sources say the Rockets made it clear to all three candidates that the team is also looking for an associate head coach to work alongside D’Antoni in the event his deal is finalized in the coming days, as is widely expected now in league coaching circles.
I’d be surprised if Houston hires any of these three as head coach. Framing the interviews as for the head or associate-head job seems more about elevating perception of these three – to the outside world, if not the candidates themselves. That said, they’ll at least get a chance to impress, even if the Rockets go into the interviews leaning toward D’Antoni.
It’s a little surprising Kalamian interviewed while the Raptors are playing the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. It’s not about the short amount of time Kalamian spent with Alexander and Morey today. It’s about the time in previous days Kalamian spent preparing for the interview.
Silas came up earlier in the search. He has worked for quality head coaches with varying styles and gets along well with players. From afar, that’s intriguing.
Bzdelik is being considered as a defensive specialist under D’Antoni, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. D’Antoni could use the help, and I suspect Kalamian and Silas are also garnering similar consideration.
But I wonder how D’Antoni feels about these interviews. The Cavaliers interviewed Tyronn Lue to be their head coach, hired him as David Blatt’s assistant and then fired Blatt for Lue. Knowing a management-approved replacement is right there can empower players to undermine the head coach if they don’t like him. And it’s not as if the Rockets have a great track record with establishing a culture of players buying into the head coach.