Sources: J.B. Bickerstaff withdraws from consideration for Rockets job

After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Monday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.

J.B. Bickerstaff (AP)
J.B. Bickerstaff (AP)

The Rockets are beginning to line up candidates in what promises to be a wide-ranging search, league sources told The Vertical.

Houston owner Les Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Houston assistant Chris Finch, league sources said. The team also met with Philadelphia 76ers assistant Mike D'Antoni on Wednesday, league sources said.

Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.

After taking over following Kevin McHale’s firing in November, Bickerstaff went 37-34 as interim head coach, earning the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Houston lost 4-1 to defending champion Golden State in the first round. Finch has been regarded within Rockets management as a future head-coaching candidate. He led the Rockets’ NBA Development League affiliate in Rio Grande to a championship in 2009 before joining Houston’s staff in 2011.

Cassell is a popular former Rockets player for whom owner Les Alexander has a strong fondness. Cassell has been an assistant coach in Washington and Los Angeles for the past seven years.

Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy remains prominent on the organization’s list of candidates, league sources said.

Conversations with potential candidates are expected to include several prominent college coaches, sources said.

Among the NBA candidates with whom the Rockets are working to set up interviews are former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources said. There could be 10-15 – perhaps even more – candidates interviewed in the process, league sources said.

Frank Vogel (AP)
Frank Vogel (AP)

Indiana Pacers: Coach Frank Vogel’s contract has expired now that the Pacers’ season has ended, league sources said, and president Larry Bird has left many around the league, including Vogel, with the belief that a coaching change could be coming soon.

Vogel was paid approximately $2.5 million in the final year of his deal, league sources said. In a market devoid of many successful head-coaching candidates, Vogel could double that salary on his next job.

Bird has scheduled his season-ending news conference for Thursday at 11 a.m. ET in Indianapolis, but so far hasn’t engaged Vogel in discussions about the coach’s future with the team, league sources said. Bird told Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star that he owed Vogel a decision soon while there were other head-coaching jobs available for him to pursue. Bird also said he needed to discuss Vogel’s future with owner Herb Simon.

The fact that Vogel could be dismissed is surprising to league executives and coaches, who believe that he has long maximized the Pacers’ talent – especially this season as a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Indiana lost a Game 7 at No. 2 seed Toronto in the first round. Vogel has reached the Eastern Conference finals twice in his six seasons as head coach, with a 250-181 overall record and a 31-30 record in five playoff appearances.

Los Angeles Lakers: New head coach Luke Walton is starting to construct his coaching staff, and the most prominent on his short list of candidates is Brian Shaw, league sources said.

Shaw was a longtime assistant under Phil Jackson, and most recently the head coach of the Denver Nuggets. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss resisted Shaw as a head-coaching candidate before the hiring of Byron Scott, and many in the league doubt his enthusiasm over having another Jackson loyalist rejoining the coaching staff.

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