Well, if ever you needed more evidence that two of our Houston professional sports franchises are run with completely different philosophies, you got it on Wednesday morning. For eight seasons, the Houston Texans and owner Bob McNair allowed Gary Kubiak and his staff to attempt to rise above the puddle of average they wallowed in for most of those seasons, 2011 and 2012 being the exception. With the Texans, patience isn't just a virtue, it's a way of life. At least when it comes to head coaches.
Well, Wednesday morning, we learned one thing — Les Alexander ain't Bob McNair.
Eleven games into a 4-7 Houston Rockets season that has sped past concerning and is careening toward disastrous, Alexander pulled the trigger and fired head coach Kevin McHale, as first reported by Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff will be the interim head coach when the team takes on Portland tonight at Toyota Center.
The move comes as a surprise, insomuch as nobody could have foreseen this coming when the season began. However, it was evident from opening night that this team had major issues. They lost their first three games of the season, each by 20 points, before going on a four game winning streak. However, that string of wins was followed by four more losses, many of the same embarrassing variety as the first three losses of the season.
A 111-95 loss to Boston at home Monday night, a game the Rockets led midway through the third quarter, was the final straw. The Rockets' brass had seen enough. McHale had clearly lost his players an the confidence of the franchise, and he was done.
The team had plenty of excuses for its poor start — injuries, the integration of Ty Lawson, the close association with the Kardashians (ok, I made up that last one) — but it all boils down to this team's treatment of defense as optional instead of integral, and energy levels that fluctuate worse than those of a narcoleptic. In short, this team just doesn't appear to give a shit. At the very least, they didn't give a shit about McHale or they wouldn't have been habitually losing to lottery teams by double digits.
Less than a year ago, McHale signed a three year extension, fully guaranteed for $12 million, and this team went on to play in the Western Conference Finals. That feels like it was a decade ago:
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There have been no indications as of yet if the Rockets plan to hire a new head coach in season or move forward with Bickerstaff. For what it's worth, Bickerstaff had been generally credited with the improvements in defense this team had seen the last couple seasons, up until this disaster of a campaign. Names like Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Brooks, and Mark Jackson, all of whom have previous ties to the Rockets in some fashion, will surface over the next several hours and days.
In the meantime, Les Alexander will scratch out millions to tell Kevin McHale to go away, the message abundantly clear — when it comes to winning, Les Alexander don't play.
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