The hiring process for NBA coaches is usually an unscientific affair. Most of the same coaches are candidates for every job in one summer, whether they be retread head coaches or in-demand assistants. Reputations and interviews stand paramount, as well as whether a team wants to go in an offensive or defensive direction. Yet there is little planning ahead of time -- often, executives only decide to fire coaches after the end of the regular season.
That typical process makes the following news regarding the Houston Rockets' coaching search stand out. After parting ways with Rick Adelman several weeks ago, general manager Daryl Morey is currently looking for a replacement. But even if Adelman had been retained, Morey had a plan in place to hire his successor this summer. From Jonathan Feigen for the Houston Chronicle:
Though Adelman and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey came together on several issues, Morey wanted Adelman to mentor a successor that Morey and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander would have chosen and put on Adelman's staff. Adelman was unwilling to make the changes necessary to his staff, arguing in favor of assistants.
Adelman, 64, has long touted lead assistant Elston Turner as ready to lead a team, but the Rockets were not willing to designate Turner as Adelman's successor, leading to Turner's decision to turn down an offer to interview for the head coaching position.
There were discussions about adding Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Chris Finch to the Rockets staff, according to both persons familiar with the talks, but it is unclear if Finch would have been designated as the head coach in waiting.
Finch, it should be noted, has been captured on video tossing a shoe over a pub, has claimed to have thrown a kettle over same, reads two books per week, and apparently has an IQ of 142. So you know he'd be a good choice. It's a wonder why Adelman didn't agree to groom him for the role.
Some NBA teams have had unofficial coaches-in-waiting, most notably the Lakers with Kurt Rambis, who got tired of waiting and became head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and current assistant Brian Shaw. To my knowledge, though, no team has ever officially designated an assistant as the coach-in-waiting. That's been the province of college football programs, but rarely professional franchises. They're more interested in making wholesale changes after getting rid of coaches.
Morey has been a forward-thinking executive since taking over in Houston, so it stands to reason that he would try out new plans such as this one. It's likely only a matter of time before a team tries this out. In a highly competitive league, teams will always do what they can to keep prized assets. Assistant coaches are merely the next frontier.