The Rockets are casting a wide net in their coaching search after Mike D'Antoni left the organization on Sept. 13, and multiple ex-players appear to be in the mix to fill Houston's vacancy. Former NBA point guard and Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is reportedly a leading candidate for the job, per Yahoo's Chris Haynes. Former Rockets guard Sam Cassell is also under consideration, and he has the firm backing of one ex-teammate.
"I played with [Cassell] early in his career and even then he was a very cerebral player," former Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell tweeted on Thursday. "I don’t have to remind you how instrumental he was in both the championship runs and he has always wanted to come back to Clutch City. Let’s bring our boy home!"
Maxwell and Cassell played together for two seasons from 1993-95, winning a pair of championships in the process. Cassell went on to a 15-year career after leaving Houston, and he's recently spent the last six seasons as an assistant with the Clippers. Maxwell expounded on Cassell's candidacy on Wednesday, advising the Rockets to hire someone without prior head coaching experience.
"I get tired of these owners and general managers, they just recycle all these goddamn coaches. You’ve gotta try something new," Maxwell told GQ's Michael Pina. "You’ve gotta give them a chance to see what they can do, and I don’t think that’s fair to guys like [Cassell]. They need to give him a chance and a legit shot. Let him bring in his people that he wants and I think he’ll do fine. He’s ready now."
The Rockets' next head coach will mark the third of the James Harden era, and D'Antoni's replacement will arrive with plenty of expectations. Houston has pushed its chips in the middle, arming Harden with a cast of veterans and a fellow former MVP. It will be Finals-or-bust in 2020-21 whether Cassell, Lue or another candidate is selected as the Rockets' next coach.