All the reasons Houston's next Jack Easterby could be working for Rockets
The Houston pro sports teams used to have a trio of some of the best and brightest front office minds in the three major pro sports. Darryl Morey of the Rockets, Jeff Luhnow of the Astros, and...well, two out of three ain't so bad. I mean, Rick Smith of the Texans was competent. He did some good things. Brian Gaine followed him, but he barely got the chance to do anything. Morey and Luhnow built contenders, with Luhnow bringing home a title in 2017.
The walls came crashing down on all three franchises. The Astros, Rockets, and Texans had to hit the reset button to a certain extent. The Astros hired a promising young general manager in James Click who had a history of doing good work with the Rays who were built through the draft. The Texans and Rockets however, hired guys who don't really have experience. The Texans didn't technically put Jack Easterby in charge of football operations, but he's been the assumed puppet master behind their moves. He's been an operations intern, character coach, chaplain, executive vice president of team development before being named executive vice president of football operations.
Rafael Stone has seemingly had the same ascent up the ladder that Easterby has. Stone has a political science and history degree, then got a law degree. He worked in the Rockets' legal department before being named general manager. If you listen to ESPN Houston's The Press Box, you'll know exactly how Joel Blank feels about Stone. As someone who worked in the Rockets' organization for over 20 years, Joel knows the inner workings. When someone like him feels some type of way about Stone, I tend to believe him. Besides, would you promote a lawyer to be the general manager without any background in basketball operations outside of sitting in on some meetings?
The difference between the two is that Easterby was smart enough to hire Nick Caserio to be the Texans' general manager to be in control of the roster moves and contracts. Stone is in charge of that for the Rockets himself. He was even arrogant enough to say he'd "for sure, 100 percent, do that deal again" when referring to the James Harden trade. He also said that we should wait until 2030 to judge the trade. One guy hasn't been heard from in Easterby, while the other is gloating. Both have taken unconventional paths to run their organizations. Both have been seen as at least part of the reason/problem why their franchises are in rebuild mode as of now.
One guy is smart enough to cover and insulate himself, but the other feels very cavalier about his position. They're both in top spots and shouldn't be there. They both have seemingly used backdoor tactics to attain those tops spots. I believe Easterby has staying power because of his character coach/chaplain background. Stone will most likely end up a casualty of war when the team is ready to compete again. Either that, or he'll be fired before he screws anything up too badly. These two guys have a lot in common. Unfortunately for Houston sports fans, they look like they'll be here for a while now.