Houston parts ways with de facto defensive coordinator Jeff Bzdelik
Jeff Bzdelik, the Rockets associate head coach who guided the defensive improvement last season, was let go today, a person with knowledge of the decision said.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 18, 2019
This development comes as a major surprise considering the context of Bzdelik’s return to the team early in the 2018-19 season amid Houston’s widespread defensive struggles.
The 66-year-old announced his retirement shortly before training camp, leaving the Rockets without the architect behind a switch-heavy defense that helped them push the Golden State Warriors to seven games in the 2018 Western Conference Finals. After Houston got out to a 3-5 start this season, allowing a sky-high 111.4 points per 100 possessions, Bzdelik was quickly coaxed out of retirement, back to Mike D’Antoni’s bench as the team’s defensive mastermind.
Bzdelik, it bears mentioning, was non-committal on his future after the Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs by the Warriors last week.
“That’s a really good question. I don’t know the answer to it,” he said when asked if he’d be returning next season, per the Chronicle. “First of all, none of us have any guarantees on tomorrow. Second, you have to ask my wife. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
Houston, after finishing seventh in defensive rating a year ago, was just 18th on that side of the ball this season. The Rockets were dominant defensively after the All-Star break, though, finishing second in defensive rating over the last 25 games of the regular season, sparking optimism that they might have a realistic chance at dethroning the Warriors in a potential postseason rematch.
Expect Houston to quickly find a replacement for Bzdelik. As the nature of his brief retirement suggests, he was absolutely integral to the team’s success over the past three years,