Houston Rockets enter ‘Phase 2′ as team looks to transform before next season

Ari Alexander reviews the list of potential assistant coaches and the possibility of a well-known Rockets player making a return to H-town

The Houston Rockets have named Ime Udoka, the 15th head coach in franchise history. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander with the Houston Rockets newsletter. The Rockets finally have some direction forward after getting rid of Stephen Silas and starting what is being called “Phase 2″ by Tilman Fertitta with new coach Ime Udoka.


The new Rockets head coach will be given power to choose his assistants. The 2022-23 Rockets under Silas had five assistant coaches. The 2021-22 Boston Celtics under Ime Udoka had six assistant coaches. Udoka’s staff led to several head coaching hires, as Joe Mazzulla took over the Celtics after Udoka’s firing, while Will Hardy got the head job in Utah and Damon Stoudamire is the new head coach at Georgia Tech. Udoka’s other three assistants, Anthony Dobbins, Aaron Miles and Ben Sullivan stayed on staff with the Celtics this past season.

Two names to watch that could stay with Udoka on the Rockets staff: John Lucas, the legendary player developer is respected throughout the league. Mahmoud Abdelfettah has come up through the Rockets system as Houston’s G-League head coach with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and is well respected within the organization.

An outside name to watch to join the Rockets staff: Celtics assistant coach Ben Sullivan. Sullivan and Udoka have a close relationship. Both grew up in the Portland, Oregon area and are connected through the Spurs, where Sullivan was a video coordinator thanks to a suggestion from Udoka. Udoka and Sullivan’s previous boss, Mike Budenholzer both coached under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, and Udoka hired Sullivan away from Budenholzer’s Milwaukee Bucks staff. Sullivan is currently in a good situation with the playoff-bound Celtics but is an intriguing name to watch based on the relationship.


The Rockets could look totally different in 2023-24, if you believe the persistent rumors surrounding James Harden’s return. What I’ve heard in league circles is similar to what many Rockets fans are reading - that James Harden’s return is being treated as an inevitability. Harden has one year remaining on his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers but is expected to opt out and either seek a new deal or sign with the Rockets.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Brooklyn Nets during Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 121-101. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) (2023 Mitchell Leff)

Harden is very comfortable in Houston, with a home, restaurant and all of his favorite haunts in the city. He’s said to have good relationship with Jalen Green (they’re close through both typical basketball events and as faces of Adidas Basketball, where Green regularly wears Harden’s signature shoes). Of course, he could also be using all of his Houston interest as leverage for a better deal with the 76ers, where he’s currently competing for a championship.

Celtics star Jaylen Brown is another name that has come up persistently. A package of picks, Kevin Porter Jr., Jae’Sean Tate, etc. is a deal that makes sense for both sides - if the Rockets want to aggressively pursue Brown. Keep in mind, he’s a legit star, so the Rockets would have to give up plenty if a deal is a possibility.


Nothing for the Rockets immediately. Houston can sit back and scout for the draft, while waiting for assistant coach candidates to become available as different top teams lose in the NBA playoffs. May 16 is the NBA Draft Lottery.

Breaking down the 2023 Houston Texans draft class (click2houston.com)

About the Author:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.