Evan Vucci/Associated Press
Houston Rockets governor Tilman Fertitta has said it before, but it bears repeating: Daryl Morey’s job is safe.
“It begins and ends with the general manager,” Fertitta said Tuesday in his weekly appearance on CNBC. “That’s why you have a basketball operations team. They’ll make a recommendation to me. I’m the sign-off guy. I wouldn’t know how to interview a basketball coach. … Daryl Morey’s job is safe. I’m sure he’s going to pick the right head coach.”
Mike D’Antoni told the Rockets he would not return to the organization Sunday, a day after the Rockets were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers. The veteran coach’s contract expired after failed negotiations last offseason.
Fertitta has maintained public and private support of Morey, who has been the Rockets’ general manager since 2007. Concerns over Morey’s job status date back to October, when his tweet of support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong led to an international incident with China that damaged the league’s relationship with its longtime partner.
The Rockets have made the playoffs 10 times during Morey’s stewardship, including each of the last seven years. However, they have fallen short of Fertitta’s desire to win a championship and face an uncertain future in the wake of D’Antoni’s departure.
D’Antoni and Morey were something of a perfect ideological match, the analytically minded general manager pairing with a coach who was all about chucking up threes and playing at a fast pace before the analytics revolution. The Rockets came within a game of making the 2018 NBA Finals but fell short after an injury to Chris Paul. The Warriors eliminated them again, a year later, despite Kevin Durant being injured midway through the series.
Houston reconfigured its roster over the last year, shipping out Paul and bringing back Russell Westbrook, and going all-in on small ball by trading Clint Capela and acquiring Robert Covington. Whoever Morey chooses as the Rockers’ next coach will have to line up ideologically, because the team is helplessly capped out for the foreseeable future.