Rockets GM Daryl Morey discusses the status of team's head coaching position

Tuesday April 19, 2011 12:33 PM

Morey Meets The Media

Rockets' General Manager discusses status of team's head coaching position

Jason Friedman

HOUSTON - Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey met with the media Tuesday, one day after the team and former Head Coach Rick Adelman agreed upon a mutual parting of ways. What follows is a transcript of his comments:

Opening statement:

It’s always tough to make decisions like these. I had the privilege to learn and work with Coach Adelman, who’s done a fantastic job for us. Four years ago, we were in this same room in similar circumstances: we had a very good coach that we were saying goodbye to. The question then is the same as now: for us it’s not ‘is the coach good?’ or ‘is the coach someone who’s done a good job for us?’ because there’s no question (about that) – the question is ‘what’s the best coaching situation for us going forward?’

That’s the question that guides our decision making and I’ll take Mr. Alexander and the organization’s process for selecting a coach and stack it up against anyone in the league. Mr. Alexander has only had solid and good coaches, stable coaches, and that’s our plan going forward and I’d ask people to have faith in the process and judge the results, not the name, when we make that decision.

What are some of the qualifications you’re looking for in the next head coach?

I think it’s early days. We just spent a lot of time talking to Coach Adelman, seeing if there could be a mutual fit here. I think besides looking for a quality choice for our situation going forward, we haven’t gotten much beyond that. We are going to start the process right away in terms of talking to candidates but we’re organizing that process now.

Can you talk about the differences with Rick Adelman?

He and I talked a lot and we agreed to keep those conversations to ourselves. I can just say for myself I have a lot of admiration for him and we feel like we need change. Our goal is to be a championship-caliber team. We feel like we can grow into that with some of the players on the roster but we so feel like we’re not there right now and that requires change. I think the differences in terms of the mutual fit revolve around that.

What changes do you feel are needed?

In terms of with Coach Adelman, I think the change we were looking for in our discussions we’re going to keep those to ourselves. In terms of going forward, again, we feel like we’re in a situation where we need to continue to try to upgrade the roster and try to continue to try to build toward being a championship contender. We’re looking for a coach that’s the best fit for that. That’s not to say that Coach Adelman couldn’t have fit into that environment, I think that we could’ve made it work potentially. But the bottom line was we didn’t come to a common agreement on how it could work going forward.

What do you envision as the fit?

We want to make sure we get our process together to give clear guidance on that. Right now, the last few days were about trying to see if there was a fit with Coach Adelman.

How important is it to hire a proven guy vs. an up and coming guy?

I think we’re going to have a pretty wide open process. I wasn’t here, obviously, for Mr. Alexander and Carroll Dawson selecting Jeff Van Gundy so I can’t comment on that. I do think we feel we’re in a different phase than we were when we selected Coach Adelman as the right choice going forward when we made a change from a very good coach in Jeff Van Gundy. So I think we’re just looking for a fit for that going forward.

With certain roster limitations, how could anyone have success building a good defense?

Our roster is not perfect. I think Coach Adelman did as good, if not the best job anyone could have done with this roster. It’s not about ‘did he do a good job?’ or ‘was our roster perfect?’ I started off by saying we’re not a championship-caliber roster right now. We feel like we need change and we need to continue to change until we get to where we want to be. The job I’m given by Mr. Alexander is not ‘can we be a team that works its way into the playoffs as a marginal playoff team?’ The job I’m given by Mr. Alexander, and we’re short of, is ‘can we compete with the top teams?’

The mistakes that are done across the league are teams that stabilize on a foundation that wins you games and maybe preserves jobs, but they’re not making the tough choices with either players or in other areas that give you the change you need to get you where you want to be.

What do you say to people who wonder when all these assets are going to turn into basketball players?

I think they are basketball players. People use the words “assets” – I never do. We never say that. These are people. We think they’re very good players but we’re always up front with them that our goal with them is to be a championship-caliber team and we’re short (of that goal). We want these young players to grow into a team that’s championship-caliber or we have to continue to make changes until we’re there. We can’t be satisfied or stabilize on a team that wins 40-to-45 games.

Have you made decisions regarding retaining assistants?

Yeah, I’m going to speak with them today, if possible, maybe tomorrow. The assistants, again, are a quality group that helped us get the results we got. We’re going to consider them for the opening and also, potentially, with a new coaching staff they’d be considered to be on that staff as well.

It would seem to indicate you’re looking for a young coach that can grow with this team. Is that accurate?

No, I wouldn’t read into that. I think we’re just looking to make a quality choice and I think we’re considering all potential options.

What is your timeline?

I would say, timeline-wise, if we feel like there’s a coach who is the right fit for the future and we were to make that decision tomorrow, we would make that decision tomorrow and we’d hire him tomorrow. So we’re going to take this process as long as it takes to make a good quality choice for the organization. If it happens sooner, great, I’d prefer it to happen sooner. But if it has to happen later, then it will happen later.

Can you talk specifically about Elston Turner and Jack Sikma?

They’re quality guys. There’s no perfect coach. It’s always a trade-off among the good options that we’re going to consider. It’s always going to be a choice of which are the factors are they strong at or which are the most important at the time, and that leads into why we make changes from Jeff Van Gundy to Rick Adelman. That’s why we make changes from Rick Adelman to who we make that choice. Every coach is different and every coach has different strengths and weaknesses. We’ve got to say which coach gives us the right strengths and weaknesses against our current roster and that’s what we’re focused on.

Speaking specifically on Elston and Jack, they’ve got strengths and weaknesses just like I do, and we’ll talk to them and see if they match what we’re looking for.

Do you know now what strengths match with this team at this time?

Today is about we’re parting ways and while we might have some initial thoughts on what we’re looking for, I want to have those be crystal clear and clarified for you guys before we talk about that.

Are you now in a different position in terms of making moves compared to where you were before?

I think it’s a constant state of working to upgrade the team. When that will happen, nobody knows. I think we’ve made a lot of quality moves that haven’t been enough. I think it’s fair to always judge the results. I think there’s some context to those results but it’s a bottom line business and that’s how we should be judged. I think at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of Rockets fans out there and I think we had a really strong team to get behind and root for this year that’s a solid foundation for the future and we’ll continue to try to upgrade the team.

Do you expect change to continue?

For as much as I think we need change, I do value stability. I think I look forward to the day when our current roster grows into what we think is a championship-caliber roster or we have those foundational pieces because I do think there’s a lot of value to having stability among your players once the time is right. We just don’t feel that time is right. On the coaching front we’ve been, again, more stable than pretty much any franchise out there, save Utah. We’ve made solid coaching hires and we stick with them. That’s been our history and that’s our plan again.

We’re going to be tirelessly working to upgrade the roster until we feel like we have a foundation to build around. We felt like Yao and Tracy were a core to build around and we continued to try to build around that core, but we also knew while we were betting on that core to hopefully be healthy to work around, we also knew that they were very injury-prone and what happened might happen, and we were actively working for this day since the day I got here which was find players who not only fit around them, but also fit in the future environment.

Do you think this is a less attractive job because of the absence of superstars?

No, I think we’re the most attractive job – except for, potentially, among certain coaches which I don’t want to comment on certain teams; there are certain jobs that are rumored might open up that people might consider they’re close to a championship and certain coaches might consider that – beyond that, though, I think we have one of the top jobs available by far. I think we’re going to have the pick of most of the coaches that are going to be out there.

What makes this job attractive?

I think we’re young; we’re one of the youngest teams in the league. We’re one of the teams that have one of the best young, improving cores out there. It’s true that we’re short but I do think a coach that’s out there is going to see ‘I want to be part of that organization. I want to be part of a team that’s made coaching choices and doesn’t change them.’ You look at almost every other team in the league that makes a choice and a year later they’re fired – that’s not our history. I think coaches value that and as much as we’re actively trying to get back to being a championship-caliber team, when we make a coaching choice we stick with it and we make a good hire.

How do you walk that line between giving players a sense a stability versus knowing change needs to be made for improvement?

I think it’s a difficult line. For sure players would like stability. As an organization we’re in a tough situation of either being up front with our players and that I think we’re short of a championship-caliber roster and change needs to be here, or we can mislead them and say we’re happy with where things are at. I’ve never been one to mislead so we’ve always been up front with our players. I talked to most of them yesterday. I think there continues to be a desire for more stability and I think that’s fair for them to ask for. But I’m up front with them. We don’t feel like we’re a championship-caliber team, so there’s going to keep being change until that happens. If that’s an uncomfortable environment, I understand it is. But the alternative is worse which is that we’re not being up front with the players and we’re not being up front with our fans of what we’re trying to accomplishment.

What would your message be to the fans?

We’ve had to say goodbye to some very good coaches over Mr. Alexander’s tenure in Rudy Tomjanovich and Jeff Van Gundy and now Rick Adelman, but we’ve had a great process to select a coach and when we make a choice it’s been a good one. So believe in the process, judge the results, don’t judge the name judge the staff when we put it together, and judge the results from that. That’s all we ask. You have to have faith in the process.

Why blow up something that’s heading upward?

Again, we’re looking for the best fit for our team going forward. We think that, to get to where we want to go, there’s going to be change coming – more change.

We believe in the plan: the plan is to try to continue to bring in quality players who are improving versus declining as much as possible, and continue to work to use trades. We’re not here to be a bad team. An easy way to improve the team – not easy because it’s painful for the fans and everyone and all involved – is to be a terrible team. It’s definitely one way to improve. That’s not the way we’re going to go. We’re going to be a team that’s young and improving, and we’re going to be a team that tries to trade our way to improvement. At the end of the day, judge that. If you’re ready to judge that we’re already not sort of executing on the plan, that’s fine. We’re going to continue to execute on it until it works.

Just to be clear, stability is a factor in teams that win the championship – there’s no doubt. But if you stabilize on a team that’s going to end up short of that, then all you’re doing is spinning your wheels in the 45-win range.

I think the difference between us winning 40-45 games the last two years and many other teams that do that, is they’re doing it not with an improving young core. It’s very hard, and it’s a testament to Coach Adelman, it’s very hard to win 40-to-45 games with the structure of our roster, with some of the shortcomings in personnel in terms of not having a center and being very young – that’s not easy to do. We want to continue to do that going forward and that’s be young and improving, continue to win more games, and trade our way to improvement.

How much of a factor will it be to find someone who fits with current style of this team?

It will be a factor. Again, just how we’re going to weigh each factor and how much, I think that’s something to be determined.

Xs and Os, and the fit there philosophically and how it meshes with our current roster, that’s a factor but it’s only one of the factors that we need to consider for a coach.

Do you want to continue to run this offense?

That will be up to the coaching selection going forward. I think, clearly, we had a very strong offensive performance this past year. If that’s something that our new coaching choice feels is the best to maintain, then we’ll look to maintain it. But we’re not going to make our whole coaching choice based on their offensive philosophy.

Will that help the candidate?

I think all else equal, it would be better is someone has some understanding of our current offensive philosophy but there’s no chance that all else will be equal.

Will the coaching choice be made by you or Mr. Alexander?

It’s always a joint decision.

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