Rumors swirled the league, even before Daryl Morey’s infamous Hong Kong protestors Tweet (and the drama that followed) that his job could be in danger. Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta and Morey did not seem to see things going the same way.
Morey will be back next season and he will be the guy picking the new coach, Fertitta said on CNBC Power Lunch (where he was to talk about the restaurant business mostly). Via Jabari Young of CNBC:
“Daryl Morey’s job is safe, and I’m sure he’s going to pick the right head coach,” Fertitta said of Morey’s job to find a replacement for Mike D’Antoni…
“It begins and ends with the general manager,” Fertitta said. “You can talk to me about business all day long, but I personally wouldn’t know which coach to hire. That’s why you have a basketball operations team that’s made up of half a dozen people that use all kind of analytics and experience.”
He added, “I’m the signoff guy, that’s it.”
Ownership has an impact beyond signing off. Fertitta sets a demanding tone — he wants to win a tittle badly, and he’s talked about wanting his teams to be tough and gritty (as he sees himself) — but also appears not to want to pay the luxury tax. (He has said he would pay the tax, but the team’s actions say otherwise.)
That leaves Morey doing roster gymnastics. Especially considering the trio of James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Eric Gordon will make $98.6 million next season (90% of the expected salary cap), $106.8 million the following season, and $113.9 million in the three years (if Harden and Westbrook pick up their options for that final year). Just those three guys. Fertitta should want to keep Morey around just to deal with that cap issue.
Morey making the call on the coach to replace Mike D’Antoni is a good thing (if it is happening that way). The Rockets are reportedly looking for a coach who can improve the culture and are considering Jeff Van Gundy and Tyronn Lue at the top of their list. They need someone who can coach small ball, because with the salaries noted above it would be hard to change rosters and styles this offseason.
It’s a lot for Morey, but the Rockets have one of the best GMs in the league and it would be smart to keep him around.