Vanya also charts each possession and result in a notebook. If the Rockets are having a difficult time defending a play, Vanya will have a staff member prepare video clips for the coaches and players to review at halftime.
Vanya has found that he can no longer watch a game at home as a casual fan.
“It’s hard,” he said, “because I’ve trained my eyes so much, particularly when it comes to defense — I’m looking for breakdowns. I’ll always see how the defense screwed up.”
JOHN LUCAS, assistant coach for player development
A 65-year-old basketball lifer, Lucas has done just about everything: player, coach, scout, general manager. Once upon a time, he even owned a semiprofessional team. (In the early 1990s, the Miami Tropics of the United States Basketball League won two championships under his direction.)
He also briefly dabbled in pro tennis after he was a two-sport all-American at Maryland.
The point is, Lucas has a unique brand of gravitas in the organization. The players let him sit with them in the back of the plane on trips. At this stage of his career, Lucas says his greatest asset is his ability to tell the truth.
“Mike has given me the freedom to be me,” he said, referring to D’Antoni.
Lucas tailors his interactions with players, especially during games. Criticize the wrong guy, he said, and it can backfire.
“I’ll get cussed out,” Lucas said. “Or we’ll cuss each other out.”
He knows, for example, that he can be candid with veterans like Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. But Lucas tends to take a different approach with someone like Clint Capela, who has worked hard on his craft (and his free throws) with Lucas.
“Once the game starts, I leave him alone,” Lucas said. “Because if I say something, he’ll tighten up.”
The Rockets are all about adjustments and in-game activity. But sometimes, Lucas said, the key is knowing when to do nothing at all.