Is Jeff Van Gundy About to Become Daryl Morey's Next Scapegoat?
The Dumpster fire that was this season for the Houston Rockets is over. It’s a season that cost Kevin McHale his job. It was a season that did further damage to the reputations of James Harden and Dwight Howard. And it was a season that finally showed that the emperor that is Daryl Morey has no clothes.
Morey’s seemingly been above criticism for a long time. He was seen as a genius with radical ideas about how to play basketball — three-pointers, layups, free throws, forget about anything in between — who never really accomplished anything besides being awarded for continued mediocrity while making sure others were scapegoated for his failures.
Look at this season’s team, which, once again, failed to feature one single player who could consistently hit a three-point shot. One might think that was important for a team relying so much on three-pointers, but one would think wrong, apparently. And one would think that big guys who could consistently hit free throws would be important seeing as how the offense so depended on layups and dunks from big guys down low, but once again, the genius that is Daryl Morey went a different way, stocking the team with big guys who can’t shoot free throws.
But NBA fans know how this game will play out. Daryl Morey will escape the blame. The team refuses to play defense? Blame Kevin McHale. Ty Lawson fails as a point guard, blame Ty Lawson for not finding a way to fit in with the team. The team refuses to coalesce around a coach tagged as an interim head coach? Well, it’s obviously the interim coach’s fault, and not the fault of a guy who assembled the roster of players who don’t really want to play defense.
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The Rockets are supposedly talking to Jeff Van Gundy about taking the head coaching job. And Van Gundy would totally be perfect in many ways. He’s a big name who’s good on television and who lives in Houston. Of course, he’s also a perfect fit because he’s also a rather mediocre head coach who, on multiple occasions, failed to coach previous Rockets teams with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming out of the first round of the playoffs — that is, in those years the team actually made the playoffs.
But the question should be why Van Gundy would want this job. Van Gundy’s a bit of a control freak, and it’s hard to see him ceding all control of the roster to Morey. And it’s hard to see Van Gundy, one of those guys who nearly killed the enjoyment factor of basketball in the late ’90s with an emphasis on an agonizingly slow style of basketball that is the opposite of the type of basketball favored by Morey.
It’s hard to see Van Gundy just junking his style of basketball and roster control. It’s especially hard to see this given how Van Gundy’s brother, Stan Van Gundy, has total control of the Detroit Pistons. And then seeing as how Van Gundy’s protégé Tom Thibodeau was just given absolute control of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But sure, Jeff Van Gundy is going to take a job with a team that depends on Josh Smith and Michael Beasley to be key contributors, and he’s going to be just fine with Morey continuing to screw things up continuously.
It would make for a pretty entertaining experience if Van Gundy took the job. There would be Van Gundy sniping at Morey to the media. And just think of what Morey’s passive-aggressive hissy fits on Twitter will be like when Van Gundy threatens to bench the next guy who shoots a three with 20 seconds on the shot clock and no one in position for a rebound. Each one would try to scapegoat the other, and meanwhile James Harden will continue doing what he wants when he wants because there’s not going to be anybody on the roster who has any power to stop him.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter who the Rockets hire as head coach. Not as long as Daryl Morey is around. Not as long as Morey is able to convince Les Alexander that he’s the smartest guy in the NBA. And not as long as Rockets fans keep supporting a truly mediocre product, for that is pretty much what the Rockets have been since the late ’90s: a team that has squandered the careers of great talents like Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming by surrounding them with lousy coaches and subpar talent.
So don’t really expect that much of a difference from the Rockets next season. Mediocrity is part of the team’s DNA. It’s what Daryl Morey does best. It doesn’t really matter who the coach is because there’s only going to be so much a coach can do with the roster that Morey’s going to hand over to him. Same as it ever was.
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