Winston Garland, Scottie Brooks, Carl Herrera, Eric Riley, Charles Jones...
There has been a lot made of Rudy T and his ability or inability to adapt the Rockets system to its new players last year. Many of his more vocal critics claim that he is married to the low post offense that was the staple of the two championship runs.
The addition of Charles Barkley to go with Hakeem Olajuwon seemed to firmly entrench Coach T in that low block and make the offense seem slow and boring. Backing it in and passing it out, however effective it has been (and it has been effective, but more about that in a moment), is, let's face it, really boring.
That having been said, there is NO coach in the NBA that is as good at maximizing talent. No one has the ability to mold players like Rudy and no one is as good an evaluator of talent as the Rockets' coach.
Sam Cassell, Emanual Davis, Eldridge Recasner, Rodrick Rhodes, Matt Maloney...
If you question Rudy's ability, consider the fact that he took a rag-tag group of NBA rejects and college scrubs all the way to the medal rounds in Europe last summer. Make no mistake that it was extremely important that the team grabbed a medal because of the problems with the NBA strike and the possibility that the USA Dream Team might not qualify for the 2000 Olympics.
Tree Rollins, Robert Horry, Sam Mack, Matt Bullard, Terry Teagle...
If that isn't enough, consider all the players who came into the league at the behest of Rudy T. Obviously, you've noticed many of the names here, but here are a few that are most impressive.
Randy Livingston was one of the most highly touted high school players in the nation when he went to college and blew out both of his knees. His talent was unquestioned, but his durability was very suspect. He became a Rocket, contributed and is signed with the Suns this year for decent NBA money.
Tim Breaux was literally discovered at Fonde Rec Center in Houston. He helped an injury depleted team and even had a few flashes of talent. He's continuing to pursue his career in the CBA, Europe and occasionally the NBA.
Probably the best example of Rudy as a talent evaluator is Eldridge Recasner. Not only did he come in and help back up the point spot, but he has continued a very successful NBA career in Atlanta and Charlotte.
Forget about Matt "Our Favorite Whipping Boy" Maloney, Chris Jent (remember him?), Charles "Old Man River" Jones, Chucky "I don't take any of Barkley's crap" Brown and fan attacker, Vernon Maxwell.
Sleepy Floyd, Kennard Winchester, Vernon Maxwell, Chris Jent, Chucky Brown...
The examples of NBA retreads, CBA scrubs and questionable draft picks saved by the Rockets is as big as Les Alexander's banking account...well, maybe not that big. Speaking of draft picks, how many of you booed when we took Robert Horry instead of Harold Minor? What did you do when Rudy picked Rodrick Rhodes, a guy no one even picked to be drafted at all? Sam Cassell? Cuttino Mobley?
In honor of another incoherent column writer:
Pete Chilcutt, Randy Livingston, Zan Tabak, Tim Breaux, Henry James...
I know that a lot of you have been pretty tough on the Rockets head coach and, in some instances, rightfully so, but if anyone questions his ability to pick talent, forget it.
Does this make him a better GM than a coach? Maybe. Does he deserve better than what we've given him? Probably.
One thing is for sure. Rudy T is the best coach the Rockets have ever had and, without question or argument, the best talent evaluator the Rockets have ever known. He is definitely one of the top 3 or 4 coaches in the league and maybe the best GM even though he doesn't hold that title.
If we ever want to question him again, just remember some of the guys who got their chance in a Rockets uni before anyone else who take a crack at them and wonder why it is that so many players were effective as Rockets but not as Lakers, Wizards, Knicks, Sonics, Jazz or whoever else.
Just ask Kenny Smith!