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Rockets want Lionel Hollins as assistant coach

Jun 17, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

Lionel Hollins Lionel Hollins

Kevin McHale is entering the final year of his contract with the Rockets, and general manager Daryl Morey has said he doesn’t believe lame-duck status matters.

Morey is really testing that theory.

Marc Stein of ESPN

McHale has improved in Houston, and I’d say he’s a pretty good coach.

But I believe Hollins is a better coach, and this would absolutely threaten McHale’s job – even if nobody enters the arrangement with that intention.

Hollins has previously rejected opportunities to be an assistant coach, and he interviewed this offseason with the Cavaliers and Lakers – the last two teams with openings – to become a head coach. Even though the Cavaliers appear headed in a different direction, the Lakers might still make sense if for no other reason than their search is extremely confusing.

So, there’s reason for Hollins to wait.

However, if the Lakers choose someone else, Houston could intrigue Hollins.

I can’t imagine a better place for Hollins to repair his images after disputes with the Grizzlies’ analytically inclined front office led to his ouster in Memphis. Hollins is an excellent coach who relates well to his players and has a proven record of success on defense. it’s a shame one flaw – Hollins should become more accepting of statistics, because they really don’t interfere with his coaching principles – has kept him out of the game for a year and counting.

Morey’s Rockets also heavily rely on analytics to inform their decisions, so if Hollins succeeds with them, that would say a lot about his ability to adapt. Every front-office in the NBA uses analytics to some degree, and it would be difficult to employee a coach who can’t at least work within an organization that values statistics.

If you’re wondering why Morey would want Hollins, the Houston general manager is more open-minded than he gets credit for. McHale is definitely not predisposed to using analytics, but he and Morey have complemented each other relative well.

Hollins could help upgrade Houston’s 12th-ranked defense, which allows the most points per possession in the playoffs. If he does, he’d definitely be in line to become a head coach next offseason.

In many ways, this is just Morey taking the analytical approach in building a coaching staff. The market is flooded with good coaching candidates – there’s no excuse for hiring a lackluster, either in potential or current ability, head coach this offseason – and that leaves a surplus, which includes Hollins. Most years, Hollins would have already been hired as a head coach elsewhere.

Hollins and Houston would be an interesting pairing, no doubt. If it works, the Rockets could improve enough defensively to win their first playoff series and six years and Hollins could position himself to become a head coach somewhere the following season.

Maybe even in Houston.

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