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Friday September 12, 2008 11:07 AM

Doing the Summer Shuffle


Rockets wrapping up busy summer within basketball operations department

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON -Want to know whether or not an organization is on the right track?  Just follow the career arc of its employees.  If they’re consistently moving on to bigger and better things (and thriving within their new roles), chances are that company knows how to evaluate and attract top talent, nurture it and see that those people are equipped to embrace new challenges. 

By that measure, the Houston Rockets appear to be handling their business very well these days.  This summer the club has witnessed a flurry of moves within its basketball operations department, with a few familiar faces moving on, new names coming in and plenty of promotions for people who have proven their value and delivered on their enormous potential.

To recap: former VP of player personnel Dean Cooper joined Minnesota so he could follow his first love and become a coach once again.  Kenny Atkinson also landed an assistant coaching gig; the Rockets’ former director of player development is now a member of Mike D’Antoni’s staff in New York.  Meanwhile, former international scout Gianluca Pascucci left the club to become the assistant general manager with Olimpia Milano. 

So that handles the outgoing staff.  All are quality individuals, and the team was undoubtedly disappointed to see them leave.  But such is life when you hire and develop strong and capable employees.

The silver lining of course is that those departures created an opportunity to retool and reenergize the franchise.  The Rockets are thrilled to have added Arturas Karnisovas and Brett Gunning to their respective positions of international scout and director of player development.  Shawn Respert is now the team’s director of player programs.  Houston-native Gersson Rosas was recently promoted to director of player personnel.  And now the club is pleased to welcome Gerald Madkins into the fold as its director of scouting – the position formerly held by Rosas.  Madkins is a veteran NBA scout and former assistant coach at UCLA who most recently served as Oklahoma City’s director of west coast scouting.

“We had some good individuals leave us, but we’ve got a very talented staff here in Houston,” says Rosas. “The opportunity for guys like B.J. Johnson, Phil Jabour and Jim Paulis to get more responsibility was a good thing in terms of timing and where we’re at as a staff.  We’ve got very good processes laid down by Daryl Morey and, before him, Carroll Dawson.  We’ve got a great structure in place and we really take pride in it. 

“Gerald Madkins brings good experience, good perspective and a very strong work ethic and professionalism, so I think he’ll fit in very well on our staff.  We’re pretty thorough in our interview process and Daryl does a great job of being open-minded in terms of the candidates we bring in.  We look at a wide pool of candidates and we sit down and look at guys’ strengths and weaknesses and see how they fit in with our processes.  Not every guy is a great fit, but we felt like Gerald touched a lot of the bases in terms of the position he’s taking on and what we needed.”

A large part of the team’s business philosophy revolves around the fact that it’s of paramount importance for new hires to fully immerse themselves in the Rockets’ culture.  This is a tight-knit group which likes to think of itself as one big basketball family.  Rosas attributes much of the credit for that mindset to Morey and former GM Dawson, who remains in his role as consultant and continues to serve as a resource and valued part of the Rockets’ personnel staff.

“Credit CD for his role that he’s played in this organization for the time he has,” says Rosas.  “And credit Daryl because he came in with an open mindset and evaluated everything and said, ‘Hey, this works.’ He’s brought some changes to the process as well and it’s made us better, but he valued our culture and valued our tradition, and it’s something we really value and want to maintain. We’re very careful about the individuals we let into our organization in terms of having the same approach and dedication, because we want to continue the principles that were established during the championship years. 

“The common thread there is our owner and the structure that he set forth for us to be successful.  We found out this formula works.  It’s worked in the past and it continues to work in terms of personnel and it’s something we want to continue.  But I go back to CD and Daryl.  They worked well together when CD was here and now, moving forward, I think Daryl has really embraced a lot of the same values that CD and the organization have had. You see it in how committed our guys are.  It’s something that makes us different.  We don’t always agree, we don’t always come to a unanimous decision, but we know how to work together and we value the opportunity to come together as a group to make the right decision for our organization.”

The success and chemistry the Rockets have found seem to validate the club’s decision to bring Morey aboard two and a half years ago, back when critics were quick to question his credentials for the job.  It’s a bold move which has already paid dividends and further cemented the team’s belief that the best hires don’t necessarily take the traditional path to their new positions.  To wit: Like Morey, Rosas himself comes from a background not typically associated with someone bearing his title.

“I’m very blessed and this is very fulfilling, because there’s no way you can say I fit the regular profile for this position,” says Rosas.  “I started as intern with the Rockets, entered the coaching ranks at the high school level, then progressed as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston, so to have an opportunity to be in this position is such a blessing.

“I think it goes back to Daryl and CD before him – they value the efforts of individuals and they’re very open-minded, so if guys are successful in their roles, they’re very open to promoting from within. It’s a big motivation for us, because we want to do a great job and let those guys know that they made the right decision and that it was for the right reasons. 

“I know what it was like to be around Houston when this team won championships.  The euphoria and the enjoyment were incredible.  So knowing that you have a hand in it, especially now at this point in time when we’re close to getting there again, is very special to me.  It’s unbelievable, very fulfilling and I’m very blessed because of it.

Have a comment, critique or suggestion for Rockets.com? Contact Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com