Best of Houston®

Best Of 2013


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Coach

The roster of failed coaches in NBA history is littered with men who were great players but couldn't coach a lick. (Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas immediately come to mind.) Such is not the case with Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. The man whom many call the greatest low post scorer in history led the Rockets to their first playoff berth since 2009 and did so amid constant roster turnover (a February trade left second-year player Chandler Parsons as the most tenured Rocket on the roster) and personal tragedy (McHale's 23-year-old daughter, Sasha, passed away from lupus in November). On top of all that, as the Rockets try to continue their upgrade of the roster in free agency, McHale's Hall of Fame résumé and growing reputation as a coach for whom players want to play will be major selling points, especially to big men looking to play for the man who wrote the book on post moves.

Best Basketball Court

Houston is hot, this we all know. There are also a large number of talented basketball players in and around this city, both pros and street-ball kings, who on any given night rattle rims and drain three-pointers deep into the humid night. The big university in the heart of Third Ward offers a set of indoor basketball courts that feature clean nets, wide space and, of course, air-conditioning. The Campus Recreation and Wellness Center at the University of Houston is still a relatively brand-new facility, and the pick-up games held there are top-notch. Take the challenge against students during the week, or battle against visitors on the weekends — for a small fee, of course.

4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, 77204
Best Sports Talk Radio Host

Midday sports radio hosting is a thankless gig. Anyone can take calls and do interviews in drive time when practically the entire city is stuck in traffic and the best athletes and coaches are available. But lunchtimers are usually subjected to annoying blowhards who sound like Rush Limbaugh in a football jersey. That's not Matt Thomas, who manages to combine a lifetime of Houston sports knowledge with the requisite patience and sense of humor needed to handle the tedium of midday sports talk. He strikes the perfect balance between hardcore sports talk and entertainment, all set to a '70s music soundtrack.

Best Swimming Hole
Lake Raven, Huntsville State Park

Sometimes, all you need is a good mud hole to cool yourself off. In the case of Huntsville State Park, the water may look murky thanks to the clay bottom, but the lake is far from a hole. The atmosphere is more that of a summer camp than a public park, and there's no danger from outboard motors or undertow. It's the perfect place for kids and a relaxing spot for adults as well.

40 Park Lane, Huntsville, 77320
Best View
Magnolia Hotel Roof/Pool Deck

There are many great vantage points from which the beauty of Houston can be seen, such as the Sabine Street bridge or the I-10 HOV lane that leads into downtown near Taylor Street. But after you experience the rooftop view from the Magnolia Hotel just before sunset, you will agree that it clearly deserves the top honor for best view of the city. Looking to the east, you'll see the new Harris County Courthouse, Minute Maid Park and BBVA Compass Stadium, the whole East End, all the way to the Houston Ship Channel. To the west, you'll notice the downtown skyline, Buffalo Bayou, Eleanor Tinsley Park, Fourth Ward, Montrose and River Oaks. The view to the north is equally fantastic. So book yourself a room or just stop in for a visit. The Magnolia staff are friendly enough to allow you a peek even without a reservation.

1100 Texas Ave., Houston, 77002
Best Amusement Center

Most amusement centers are outdoors, and while this is great for the brief time of the year where being outdoors sounds awesome, it's pretty annoying when the heat hits. Track 21 would be great outdoors, but throw on a roof and some air-conditioning and you've got a location suitable for first dates that don't involve alcohol or for letting the kids burn off pent-up energy. Highlights include three go-kart tracks, a challenging but fun cosmic golf course and one of the best laser-tag battlegrounds in the city. All that, and you don't have to worry about anyone getting heatstroke.

4815 Highway 6 N., Houston, 77084

Best Coach: Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets


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