The Hypocrisy of Bill O'Brien

Team, in Houston is spelled B-I-L-L

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Due to the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee being suspended, Brown alum Bill O'Brien decided to do us all a favor and spell team for us last week. The hypocrisy in the Texans' general manager and head coach taking on this task is quite overbearing.

As O'Brien attempted to explain how his moves as the general manager were making the team better, I could only smirk, thinking back to the summer of "alignment." It wasn't that long ago that Bill O'Brien had to get Rick Smith out because Smith obviously didn't understand what it meant to be a part of O'Brien's T-E-A-M. When Brian Gaine was brought back to replace Smith, the duo spoke about "alignment" ad nauseam. They looked to build the team the same way, they looked for the same attributes in players...yada, yada, yada.

Fast foward only a year and a half later and somehow Gaine had already forgotten how to spell T-E-A-M. Now enter the man that must have an unmatched vocabulary as his rise to power in Houston is unlike any that I have ever seen in professional football. A former team chaplain and character coach, Jack Easterby, had taken a trip to New England. Alledgely, Easterby and O'Brien felt that Nick Caserio knew how to spell T-E-A-M better than Gaine. While O'Brien and Easterby could spell with the best of them, apparently reading wasn't a top priority for the trio. O'Brien and Easterby haphazardly met with the Texans' owner and convinced him to move on from Gaine and pursue Caserio. This didn't go as plan (or did it) as Caserio had a no-interview clause in his contract. New England threatened the Texans with tampering charges and Houston cowered to their big brothers, once again, embarassing the franchise as a second-tier organization among their piers.

No worries, they still had Gaine, right? Unforunately, the team had decided to fire Gaine the week prior, as they supposedly believed that Caserio was a homerun hire. Needless to say, that was the beginning of a reign that would lead to a new T-E-A-M model being one canvassed in battle red embarassment.

O'Brien and Easterby since the "mistake" went on to become the most powerful man in the organization and his right hand, yes man. Yes, the chaplain, the character coach, was now at the right hand of the czar. Was it a huge coincidence that O'Brien and Easterby's elaborate plan blew up in a way that would benefit the both of them? Or is it more likely that the Ivy league educated O'Brien had orchestrated a scheme that would finally put him in a position to have the power that he had always craved?

O'Brien's flub made him the only officially titled general manager and head coach in the NFL. How could a coach with a resume more similar to Marvin Lewis than Bill Belichick hold both titles at a time in which giving coaches all encompassing power had died off? Yes, O'Brien has won a lot of AFC South titles. Congrats are in order for winning one of eight divisions and being better than at least three teams each year, that happen to be geographically close to the city in which his club plays. Never mind the fact that since O'Brien took over as head coach of the Houston Texans, his team is the only AFC South squad that has fail to advance to an AFC Championship game. Never mind the fact that he holds a 2-4 playoff record with wins over quarterbacks Connor Cook and Josh Allen or the fact that he became the only coach to blow a 20+ point lead in the playoffs and lose that game by 20+.

O'Brien would like his season ticket holders to believe that he's building a true team. However, the blueprint that O'Brien has shown is one that looks more of a dictator. His plan is to seize all power and only surround himself with those who have undying loyalty to him as supreme leader, not the team. In Houston, you spell team, B-I-L-L, if you don't worship at the alter of O'Brien then you will quickly be banished, despite your talent, following, prestige, etc.

O'Brien's Reign:

  • Get Rick Smith out of the way
  • Get Brian Gaine out of the way
  • Become GM
  • Trade Clowney for small return
  • Trade Hopkins for small return
  • Trade for Tunsil without extension
  • Elevate yes men to all positions of authority
It's agree wholeheartedly with O'Brien or fall by the wayside. That's what a team is in O'Brien's eyes.

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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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