First off, welcome to Houston. How have the city and fans treated you so far?
The response has been really great. The Rockets are a team that everyone seems to get behind and the fans I have met are very knowledgeable. We are holding weekly breakfast meetings with current or prospective season ticket holders and the passion for the team is impressive. If you are interested in potentially becoming a season ticket holder and taking part in these meetings, please contact the Rockets.
Your name and hiring will probably be forever linked to "Moneyball" arriving in the NBA. Do you feel that is a fair assessment? With more teams hiring statistical analysts and so many trades these days being made strictly for "cap purposes", has the NBA become much more numbers-oriented?
I see my career and hiring as part of a larger trend of decision making in organizations being augmented by the use of objective evidence ("numbers", "data", "information", ...) to improve forecasting, to test assumptions before acting on them, etc... This use of objective evidence has been very successful in many industries and famously in the book Moneyball by the Oakland A's but has also been successful at the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, etc... Mr. Alexander has been on the leading edge of this trend for some time, my hiring just happens to be more public than the other improvements he has made. An edge in our decision making will increase our chance of winning basketball games.
In switching from the operations side to the basketball side, what will be your biggest challenge?
It was not really a switch. In Boston my responsibilities were operations for both basketball and business. The only change at the Rockets is I am focused exclusively on basketball, which is more exciting than challenging as greater focus will increase the chance of greater results.
What do you hope/expect to learn working closely with Carroll Dawson next season and how has your relationship been with him thus far?
The relationship has been tremendous, I am really lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. Besides tapping into and learning from his experience, I am expecting he will help me improve my jumper. His ability to develop players is under-appreciated.
What is the biggest weakness you see in the Rockets and how do you plan on addressing it moving forward? Do you think what ails the Rockets is a 1 or 2 year fix or something that may take longer?
While we have Tracy and Yao our goal is to each year develop a roster that is championship caliber. That said, we also are going to build a consistent winner which requires that the time horizon on many of our decisions be longer than just one year. I generally will avoid publicly discussing what I see as weaknesses in our roster as that info can put us at a competitive disadvantage.
The NBA Draft is a little over 5 weeks away. How do you apply your statistical analysis to the draft when scouting college and foreign players, given the varying rules, conferences and levels of competition that these prospects have faced?
You take those varying rules, conferences, and levels of competition into account and weight the use of that information into the final decision appropriately. It is always better to gather objective evidence than not, no matter what the situation. The important step is how much weight you give the objective evidence you have gathered.
What type of player (position, style or otherwise) will the Rockets be looking for out of this draft?
Because the current CBA includes four year rookie contracts with restriction rights in the 5th year, the player we draft in the 1st round will be one that will be with the Rockets his whole career (barring a trade). Because of this, going with the best player available is weighted higher and team fit (position, style, etc...) is weighted lower.
Many analysts feel the top of this draft is not that strong, but there are many potential contributors that could extend to the second round. In your early look at the draft, how valuable does that 32nd pick in the draft (via the Knicks) look to be?
I believe we will get a player at 32 who will contribute in a significant way at the NBA level -- if not in his first year then shortly after.
Vassilis Spanoulis continues to improve in Europe. Is it the team's hope to have him on the Rocket roster next season?
We believe Vassilis is a NBA player. As with all player decisions, however, you have to weigh the use of money on him vs. other options and go with what is best in the larger picture so a decision on him will play out over the summer.
Last question: Did you bring us a magical stat formula from MIT that can get us the #1 pick Tuesday?
Yes. After an initial prototype I brought from MIT, Patrick Ewing contributed to the final product and we have briefed Carroll so he is ready Tuesday.