More thoughts on the coaching change and management’s motives

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of negativity regarding the Rockets recent decision not to re-sign Rick Adelman, fans and commenters calling for Morey’s head (so to speak) and suggesting the move was a colossal (to put it nicely) mistake.

This line of thinking seems to come from the assumption of the Rockets’ motives as the standard reaction to a disappointing season: that the team’s performance didn’t meet expectations and that this therefore must be the fault of the coach.

While this does seem to be the common rationale for firing coaches, I’m not personally convinced that was the case in this particular circumstance, though it very well could have been. The Rockets began the season in just about the worst way possible, only winning three of its first thirteen games and losing countless close contests in the fourth quarter. The team failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row and only managed one more win this season than the last. With new additions to the roster and continued development of its young players, it’s easy to see how anyone might view the team’s performance as a disappointment and lay the hollow-chested emptiness of that feeling squarely at the feet of Rick Adelman.

Obviously, all of this is purely speculative in that none of us know for certain what the Rockets’ management’s actual reasoning was nor do we have secret transcripts of what exactly was said behind closed doors, but I would like to propose an alternative explanation.

Daryl Morey has repeatedly stated that the team’s intention is not simply to compete in the NBA but to compete for an NBA Championship, but the team as it’s currently constructed is simply not able to do that. Management knows this. Adelman knows this. The players know this. Therefore, the position in which the team finds itself is one of rebuilding.

The process of rebuilding a sports franchise often requires trading players who are good now for ones who will potentially be better in the future. It requires taking chances on players who may or may not live up to their perceived potential. It requires trading veterans for draft picks and being patient while the young make the mistakes they will hopefully learn not to repeat. And, most importantly, it often requires losing now in order to win in the future.

Rick Adelman is 64 years old. He has been a successful NBA coach for 17 seasons. Expecting him to wait around for a few years and coddle young players while they grow into their big-boy Nike’s might not only be unfair to him but also to the organization as a whole.

I believe what the Rockets are looking for is a coach who can grow with the team, someone willing to teach and tolerate mistakes and endure failures with the hopes of creating future successes, someone who can build a system to suit the personnel with an eye toward development and an ear buried in Daryl Morey’s analytical file cabinet, someone who’s ready right now to hurry up and wait.

Hopefully, for the sake of the players and the fans who’ve all invested our time and emotion into this strangely captivating dance, the team manages to find such a someone.

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