Best Houston Rockets coaches of all-time, ranked
The Houston Rockets have two championships and 33 total playoff appearances, a record that speaks volume how excellent the organization has been over the course of history
Fans usually think of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, Charles Barkley, Tracy McGrady and James Harden when someone brings up the Rockets. Houston has certainly been home to some of the top players in NBA history.
However, the Rockets have also had a few elite coaches stroll the sidelines. After all, NBA teams need stellar coaches to win consistently since talent can only take you so far.
For this piece, we ranked the five best Rockets coaches in franchise history. We’ll start off with a guy who is one of the best forwards in NBA history and currently works for Turner Sports.
5. Kevin McHale
McHale had a Hall of Fame NBA career with the Boston Celtics. His first stop as a coach was with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he won only 39 games.
McHale was hired by the Rockets before the 2011-12 season. The team made the playoffs in his second year as coach after winning 45 games, but they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the postseason.
The 2013-14 season saw the Rockets win 54 games. They were projected to go on a title run with James Harden and Dwight Howard leading the charge; unfortunately, they bowed to the Portland Trail Blazers on Damian Lillard’s game-winning shot in Game 6.
The next season was McHale’s best year with the Rockets. The team won 56 games and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the Golden State Warriors who wound up winning the ring that season.
McHale’s relationship with Harden became sour and Houston fired the Hall of Famer after 11 games into the 2015-16 campaign. He ended his Rockets stint with 193 victories, which is good for fourth in franchise history.
4. Rick Adelman
Adelman coached the Rockets from 2008-11. The club made the playoffs twice under his tutelage, winning nine postseason games. He has the sixth-most playoff wins in franchise history.
In 328 games at the helm of the Rockets, Adelman went 193-135. He finished with the same amount of wins as McHale but had five more losses.
Adelman was able to guide the Rockets to the second round of the 2009 playoffs after Jeff Van Gundy couldn’t do so. Houston wound up losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven epic games.
3. Bill Fitch
Fitch coached the Rockets for five seasons and racked up the second-most wins in franchise history. He bagged 216 victories in the regular season.
The 1986 Rockets went to the NBA Finals under Fitch but lost to the Celtics in six games. Ironically, Fitch won a title with the Celtics in 1981 as head coach.
Fitch has the third-most wins in Rockets’ postseason history. Houston also won 21 games in the playoffs with Fitch on the sidelines.
2. Mike D’Antoni
Love him or hate him, D’Antoni’s offensive style has guided the Rockets to numerous wins and records.
However, the team has yet to get to the Finals in the Harden-D’Antoni era. They should have gone in 2018 but choked in Game 7 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
D’Antoni has the third-most wins in franchise history. He’s won 213 games and lost just 97 since becoming the head coach of the Rockets in the summer of 2017.
Moreover, Mike has the best winning percentage in the regular season.
With Russell Westbrook next to Harden, the pressure is on D’Antoni to bring the Rockets a title. The team was in sixth place in the West before the 2019-20 season was suspended due to COVID-19.
1. Rudy Tomjanovic
Rudy was FINALLY named a Hall of Famer this year. The Rockets’ two championship teams were coached by Tomjanovic, so the entire city of Houston was thrilled to see him get his recognition.
Tomjanovic won 503 games with the Rockets. That’s first in franchise history by a wide margin. He also has the most postseason wins.
Those two Rockets title teams represented Houston so well, and that was only the case because Tomjanovic was coaching the team from his heart and soul.