“Next man up” is the phrase of the week when coaches and players speak of a fallen team member, it is also the case for J.B. Bickerstaff and the Houston Rockets.
After stumbling out of the gates with a 4-7 record the Rockets fired head coach Kevin McHale and made Bickerstaff the next man up. Houston won 56 games which earned them the Southwest Division title and a No. 2 seed in the West. They fell to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
Many coaches, players and fans around the league felt that Houston panicked. On the other hand, Rockets owner Les Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey felt a change needed to be made before the team dug themselves into a hole that they would be unable to climb their way out of.
I was a bit on the fence about the whole situation as well.
— Vinny Hardy (@VinnyHardy) November 18, 2015
I really thought that Kevin Mchale would get things turned around in a couple of weeks or so. Making a move 11 games in was shocking but management did what they felt they had to do. At the same time I was and am glad to see J.B. get an opportunity.
I don’t know J.B personally. I do remember him coming to Benham when a portion of Highway 160 was renamed Bernie Bickerstaff Boulevard. Like many Harlan County Kentucky natives I know Bernie a little bit and am proud of what he’s been able to do during his many years in the NBA. A lot of people from the Lynch, Benham and Cumberland, Ky area have parents, aunts, uncles and cousins who grew up and went to school with Bernie which creates a natural inclination to pull for J.B. to do well.
J.B. grew up around the NBA and the interim role he now inherits is one his father knows well. It’s not an easy situation. Bernie also had the challenge of being the expansion Charlotte Bobcats’ first ever head coach and general manager.
Bernie’s last stint as an interim head coach compares quite favorably with J.B.’s small sample size to date. In 2012 the Los Angeles Lakers started the season 1-4 under Mike Brown. Brown was fired and Bernie was named interim head coach and promptly guided the team to a 4-1 mark in their next five games. After starting 4-7 Houston has gone 7-5 and are now 11-12 which is good for seventh in the West.
This definitely isn’t where they want to be but it’s better than where they were. Like McHale, Bickerstaff also lost to the hapless Brooklyn Nets and that just can’t happen. Two of Brooklyn’s seven wins on the season have come courtesy of the Rockets. Beating the teams they are supposed to beat is a must for Houston as they continue the process of turning things around.
This process continues as Kobe Bryant and the 3-20 Los Angeles Lakers come to Houston tonight. Shower Kobe with the respect he deserves (before the game) but then go out and take care of business and get the win afterward. A win tonight gets Houston back to .500. In the West the Golden State Warriors are on a completely different level than everyone else. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are off to strong starts as well.
Fortunately for Houston everyone else is kind of muddling in mediocre so the Rockets have a great chance to take advantage if they can reel off some wins and put a streak together.
J.B. has brought some much-needed stability and that is good to see. He’s making the most of his opportunities, just like his dad.