For most of six weeks, as the Rockets went through their marathon of interviews with prospective coaches, seemingly endless meetings, and deep dives of research in a painstakingly slow process, they kept coming back to the same name.
Stephen Silas had gone from impressive to intriguing until finally, the more the Rockets looked and talked, the overriding sense was that he was the right choice for them.
Silas, a finalist for the position when Mike D’Antoni was chosen in 2016, will become the Rockets’ 15th head coach, multiple individuals with knowledge of the deal said after the team reached agreement with the Dallas Mavericks’ lead assistant Wednesday.
The Rockets also strongly considered one of their former coaches, Jeff Van Gundy, and their director of player development, John Lucas. But in the last five days, they became increasingly focused on Silas. A Tuesday Zoom meeting with players was the final step toward the organization’s feeling in concert about the move, a person familiar with the process said.
Silas was considered a strong fit, several individuals said. He has a history of working well with stars, including LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kemba Walker and Luka Doncic, and he had enormous success this past season in helping guide the Mavericks to the best offensive rating in NBA history.
Beyond those career highlights, the Rockets were drawn to Silas’ embrace of their philosophies and his suggested changes, becoming increasingly enamored with his ideas about building on their style and strengths with former MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
“People are labeling him as a terrific offensive coach, which he is, but he’s more than that,” said Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford, a former Rockets assistant who had Silas on his staff when he coached the Charlotte Hornets. “He’s a terrific defensive coach. He’s a very good communicator with players. He has a wealth of knowledge. He’s worked with a lot of different coaches in the NBA. He’ll want them to play balanced basketball: really good on offense and very good on defense.
“He’s going to be prepared every day. He’s going to have a plan to work on both ends of the floor every day. Everything will be very detailed. You have to coach every player differently, and that’s one of his great strengths. He has a sense of how to communicate with each player.”
The son of former NBA All-Star Paul Silas, Stephen Silas has long been considered a top candidate to become a head coach. He landed the Rockets job 40 years after his father became an NBA head coach and 17 years after the elder Silas was one of the runners-up for the Houston post when the team chose Van Gundy.
Van Gundy had extensive talks with new Rockets general manager Rafael Stone and team management about returning, though some of that was to get a better feel for the position after the departure of GM Daryl Morey. Van Gundy had been particularly interested in working again with Morey, who was the general manager in waiting during Van Gundy’s final season with the Rockets.
The Rockets also strongly considered elevating Lucas and hope to keep him with the organization, possibly on Silas’ staff, a person with knowledge of the team’s plans said.
The team has also expressed interest in former SuperSonics, Trail Blazers and Pacers coach Nate McMillan and former Suns and Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek to be on Silas’ staff.
Silas, 47, became the NBA’s youngest assistant coach at 27 when he was moved from a scouting position with the New Orleans Hornets in 2000. He filled in for Clifford for a month when the latter was out with an illness during the 2017-18 season.
Silas is now one of four NBA head coaches who are the sons of former NBA head coaches, joining Denver’s Michael Malone, Minnesota’s Ryan Saunders and Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff.
“He’s an extremely intelligent person,” said Bickerstaff, a longtime friend of Silas who served the Rockets as an assistant and interim head coach. “He’s an extremely intelligent basketball mind. He’s a really good person, first and foremost. To his core, he is a good human being — unselfish — who cares about the greater good as opposed to himself. He’s carried himself throughout his career that way.
“He has been qualified to be a head coach for some time now, but he went about his business, showed up every day and did his job. And I think his hard work and what he’s done has paid off for him.”
Word of Silas’ landing the Rockets job brought congratulations on Twitter from Doncic and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
A 1996 graduate of Brown University, Silas is known for a calm, low-key demeanor, even during games, and for being comfortable with a large variety of NBA players and personalities, having spent much of his life around the league.
“We’re close, close friends, but look, he’s earned this, and he’s ready,” Clifford said. “I can tell you my whole staff here … you would think we just won a playoff series we’re so excited. It’s great. He’s great.”