NBA Rumors: Jeff Bzdelik Returns to Rockets as Defensive Coordinator

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 18: Assistant Coach Jeff Bzdelik of the Houston Rockets calls a play agains the Minnesota Timberwolves during Game Two of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 18, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Jeff Bzdelik, the former associate head coach of the Houston Rockets who installed the team's defensive scheme after joining Mike D'Antoni's staff in 2016, will return to the Rockets after Thanksgiving as the defensive coordinator, according to ESPN.com.

Bzdelik had retired ahead of the 2018-19 season, though he has since "resolved family issues involved with the move but still has some commitments that will keep him from joining the team until later this month."

Bzdelik, who turns 66 on December 1, cited a desire to spend more time with his family as one of the reasons for his retirement in September.

"Making this decision has been extremely difficult," he said at the time, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. "I truly love the game of basketball, but after 42 years of coaching, I would like to dedicate more of my time to my family, friends and other interests. I am very grateful to many people who have made this journey so fulfilling."

The Rockets have struggled to open the season, going 3-5 with a 111.3 defensive rating (21st in the NBA). While an injury to James Harden, a two-game suspension for Chris Paul and adjusting to a new-look roster after a busy offseason have been factors in Houston's slow start, the defense has also been a major concern.

Last year, the Rockets finished with the best record in the NBA and took the Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals before succumbing to the eventual NBA champs. That was due in part to an improved defense that finished the season with a 105.6 defensive rating, seventh in the league. 

But Houston lost two excellent wing defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc a Mbah Moute, along with the architect of the team's defensive scheme in Bzdelik, and those departures have been felt. 

Rohan Nadkarni @RohanNadkarni

I asked Clint Capela last Friday what impact losing Jeff Bzdelik has had, and he was pretty mum. “It is different, it is different. We still have new guys, the defensive coaches last year knew us.” He also said the team is still adjusting to the new roster.

Not surprisingly, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was happy to see Bzdelik return to the team: 

Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26

#Rockets owner @TilmanJFertitta says Jeff Bzdelik, the team's associate head coach last 2 years,is returning after stepping away from the game: "We're excited to have Jeff back.He's one of the great defensive coaches.We worked on him & I think the team is excited to get him back"

Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26

.@TilmanJFertitta on Jeff Bzdelik returning:"We have 1 of the greatest offensive minds n the league w/ Coach D'Antoni but u need a defensive coordinator just like u do n football.Together they put together a 65-win team last year.I think he's 1 of the big pieces that was missing"

Rebuilding Houston's defense will be no small task, with both Ariza and Mbah Moute elsewhere. But getting back Bzdelik is a major boost for the Rockets as they look to rebound from a slow start and re-establish themselves as one of the NBA's elite teams.